Thoughts about Finding Work-Life Balance

The idea of work-life balance can be controversial. Some successful people say that it’s nearly impossible to achieve a real balance between one’s career and one’s personal life. Others use some variation of the tired phrase, “Work to live, don’t live to work.”

It’s important to remember that work-life balance is a goal, something to strive toward and that it’s not the same for all people. This balance can’t be an equal division of time — some days need to focus on work, others on family and sometimes they are more equal.  As your career progresses and you make changes, you’ll have different demands on your time. You need to be ready to adapt to these changing needs.

This is why it can be so hard to find a good example of work-life balance that applies to our situation. One respected colleague might love being at the office all the time, while another prioritizes family over anything else. Someone else might currently be working as hard as possible to earn a promotion, intending to work on their balance once they’re in the new position. At all times, even when looking at what others are saying, it’s best to ask yourself, “What do I need?”

Always keep in mind your own priorities. What do you most enjoy doing? How important is your work to you? How much time do you wish you could spend with your family? When you try to answer these questions, you should also think about what you might need to change to better fulfill these needs [1].

Though ultimately we have to figure this out for ourselves, here is some inspiration from successful business leaders who have shared their own struggles with work-life balance:

Bill and I go over our calendars a lot to make sure as much as we can that one of us is home when we can be and to make sure that the kids know they really are the center of our lives. Melinda Gates, co-founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation [2]

It’s up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the types of lives that we want to lead. If you don’t design your life, then someone else may just design it for you, and you may not like their idea of balance. Nigel Marsh, author of Fat, Forty, and Fired [3]

I feel guilty when my son says, “Mommy, put down the BlackBerry, talk to me,” and that happens far too much. I think all women feel guilty. I think what’s interesting is, I don’t know many men who feel guilty. I don’t know a lot of men who feel guilty for working full time, it’s expected that they’ll work full time…I wonder if there were more shared responsibility if more men would feel guilty too and women would feel less of it.Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook [4]

Companies should not have a singular view of profitability. There needs to be a balance between commerce and social responsibility. The companies that are authentic about it will wind up as the companies that make more money.Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks [5]