Dual Purposing

Thanks for your feedback on our blog on life-work integration as an alternative to the work-life balance model that most people adopt. Several people have asked how those of us achieve it, and that’s the point of this article.

The key issue, obviously, is time management. In the Balance model, you block off certain times of each day, week, month, etc. to focus on different aspects of the life, so that at the end of the time period you’ve achieved the balance you want. (Example: no work at home so I can spend time with the family; only making an exception if everyone else is in bed. Or work 5-6 days a week and on the remaining days refuse to work on “office issues.”  The challenge is one of leakage:  How to avoid work from interesting with non-work time.  Once you’ve cracked the door open the invader (usually work) takes more and more time – which means you’re no longer in “balance”.

In the Integration model, you’re also conscious of time, but the key element is built around “dual-purpose” time: how to I engage in an activity in which I actually accomplish more than one thing?

Dual purpose time is NOT multi-tasking. Most research shows multi-tasking is not an effective way to increase productivity. Dual-purpose time is the creation of an activity which, allows you to achieve two or more goals at the same time.

Imagine you want to learn about Chinese culture and language, and also want to take a vacation. Taking a course in China allows you to study in school and immerse yourself in the culture when not in class.

Imagine you want to help people in a third-world country, do a research project (for school credit) and  keep costs to a minimum. Taking a job as a teacher or other service provider in the village allows you to earn money or reduce expenses, and allows you to conduct the research when not actually working.

Another scenario: Imagine you’re a parent and want to write a book or play for a few hours each night. You also want to help your kids get their homework done and also supervise their use of the internet.   In dual-purposing, the solution lies in creating a room in which all of you can work on computers at the same time, and create culture in which people do their work, and also get a change to take a break when needed. In this way, you do your writing, the kids do their homework – and can ask permission to interrupt you to help them with the problem. One parent who did this shared this approach with other parents – who were worried about supervising their kids who worked alone in their rooms at night supposedly doing homework and possibly going to undesirable sites. The parent explained that he never had a fear with his children, because working in the public area also provided a disincentive to meander from acceptable websites to those who weren’t.

As the examples make clear, work-life Integration allows you to accomplish more than one goal during the same time interval, thus increasing your productivity. It does take a little extra time to design the dual-purpose activity, but the rewards of accomplishing both activities at the same time, make it an excellent investment.

What do you think? Have you ever tried it? If so, share your experiences! If not, do so now and then share them with us!

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