The Harvest

What if the work-life balance is a myth? I explore the idea that the relationship between work and personal life can look more like waves and seasons than a perfect balancing act.

We hear a lot about living a “balanced life”, but what if that’s the wrong goal?

In this episode of the Art of Manliness podcast, author Rory Vaden touches on the subject of living an imbalanced life. Vaden calls this the “harvest principle”, and it captured my attention.

Farmers don’t get to live a balanced life during the harvest. There’s a brief window of time during which the crops can be harvested: too early, and they aren’t mature, cutting into profits; too late, and the crops have rotted. That’s why during the harvest, a farmer wakes up before the sun rises and is still sweating long after the sun goes down.

This schedule is ridiculous—tiring, difficult, and anything but balanced. But it’s short. The farmer seizes an opportunity, imbalances their life until the job is done, and then enjoys a comparatively carefree post-harvest season until it’s time to plant again.

Vaden’s point is that knowledge workers can adopt this principle too. Difficult work needs long hours of focus, and those long hours can be impossible to find if you’re building a pristine work-life balance.

So if I’m trying to tie up a long-winded project, I may find it valuable to imbalance my life for a season, while I still have the energy to carry me through to the end. I’ll put in the long hours to get the job done. Then I’ll back off and reap the rewards, imbalancing my life back to the things I was forced to neglect during the harvest.

Did this interest you? You might also enjoy my article Personal PhD, which entertains the idea of devoting yourself to an intense time of personal learning.