Monday, May 12, 2014

Get over it: There is no such thing as work/life balance

“I am so sorry. I was off a few days on vacation with my family and did not keep up with e-mail.”

This was the opening comment from a manager I met with recently. Later in the day while in another meeting I asked a manager peer about her recent time off.

Me—“How was your vacation?”

Person—“Good but I did not do any work!” “I am so behind!”

Such is the life of exempt level employees and especially managers. We find ways to leave work but work never leaves us.

Our competitive work culture creates added pressure as time away can mean missed opportunities to contribute to key projects. This can lead to a perception of low value which in turn later can lead you to being the person selected for the next layoff. Not necessarily true but that is what many people think as they ponder time away from work.

Now let’s add to all of this the new hyper connected world we live in. Thanks to phones and tablets we are now connected to work 24x7. There is no excuse at all to miss that important e-mail update, project meeting maker or big data result.

For these reasons and more I have come to the clear conclusion there is no such thing as work life balance. I do not even like the term as I think it is deviously deceptive. The word “balance” creates a false hope that work and life is a 50/50 proposition. Striving for that level of balance can create far too much undo angst.
The solution I have worked out over the years is situational priority management.

I am successful in my work life because I recognize when it is time to turn it on, dig in and bust my butt to enable great results. There are times when this will require 60 hour weeks and 12 hours days and that is okay.

I am successful in my family life because I recognize when it is time to turn work off, get out and bust a move to enable great connections with my wife and teen son. When on vacation, I commit to being fully present with the family resisting the urge to work and by trusting those on my team to make the most of their empowerment.

As a father and a husband, I know that family is forever and if I am to be successful in the most important role God has given me I have to be deliberate with my time both as a parent and as a work professional. Success in one area can indeed lead to success in another.


Yes you can make everything work by managing priorities and by not letting things get out of whack forever. It is okay to have 60+ hour work weeks. The problem comes when the norm becomes all work and no family. 

Remember, jobs are temporary but your family should be permanent! There will be times when you have to sacrifice in one area to have success in another. The key is just to recognize this, be deliberate and live guilt free in each with proper priority management. 

So dump the guilt, forget balance and strive for success instead. It is possible to win at home and at work.