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One of the statements I hear most often from people across virtually any profession is “I need to have better work-life balance”. I find this statement intriguing, as what does balance really mean. Is it all about hours? Is it all about being accessible by phone? Is it perception? Or reality? Is your workload mandatory or voluntary? If you had more hours available for life, what would you do?

Let’s talk about some of these points, and let’s debate them along the way.

It is Sunday morning as I write this, I am sitting on my sofa next to my wife watching the F1 Italian Grand Prix cheering Lando & Danny on from our favorite team McLaren. Am I working? Am I out of balance? For me I am perfectly in balance. I am with my wife, we are cheering on McLaren, and I have our two pugs, Cricket and Otis snuggling me on either side. I enjoy writing and even more, I enjoy sharing thoughts that have the possibility of impacting others positively. Technically I am working I guess, but I am doing something I am passionate about, and it is not taking anything away from my family. Now, some people would debate working on a Sunday morning, typing away on my MacBook is out of balance and not proper work-life balance. And they would be right for them.

So that was a little warm-up, sort of like a formation lap in F1 racing. Let’s debate hours. Is 40 hours a week good work-life balance? 50 hours? What if you live in Paris, France? What if you live in New York City? What if you work on a manufacturing floor that has set hours? What if you are an entrepreneur starting your own business? What if you are an individual contributor? Or a Chief Financial Officer? What if you are early in your career? Or more mature in your career?

10 questions and over a MILLION answers – and not one is universally right or universally wrong.

  • The RIGHT ANSWER is starts with the right questions – what is right for you? What is balance based on your work and your life? What is right for you based on your professional goals and personal goals? What is right for you based on the stage of life you are in?
    Let’s say you have two kids and they are just entering the college years, and you make a decision to take a second job to help pay for tuition, or work longer hours to seek a promotion? Is that out of balance? Or perfectly in balance? You are balancing your life goals of sending your kids to college, but to do that you have to slug it out at work a bit more. My opinion would be you are balanced – you are achieving your life goals. I guess you could decide not to take a second job or seek a promotion and conversely not be able to send your kids to college, but then you might not achieve your life goals. Debate?
  • You started your career in NYC working long hours and over the past 15 years have progressed steadily and are comfortable working “normal” hours now. You have the perfect work-life balance. You and your partner decide it is time to move to the suburbs which will now require you to go from a fifteen-minute commute to an hour and fifteen-minute commute each way. You are working the same number of hours, but now have added 10 extra hours of “work-time” due to your commute, and even worse you have to leave your house every morning super early. Have you gone from being balanced to now being out of balance? Has your quality of life, the schools in the suburbs, your weekend activities and such improved or regressed? A life decision, moving to the suburbs, has increased your work hours, but if your life has improved, isn’t that better balance? Maybe, but some early mornings or long commutes home in Friday traffic you may question this. Debate?
  • You are your college buddy took similar jobs at the same company in London right after college and both work the same hours. You even have become roommates and enjoy hitting the gym together at night. You get a new boss who gives you an opportunity to shine, and really advance your career. You seize this opportunity as it fits your professional goals. You are only able to workout with your buddy a few nights a week now because you are staying late a few nights a week. Your friend nicely tells you how “you have changed” and are “too focused on work”. Are you? What do you think? Are they right?

Hopefully with these three short stories, you see that there is no answer that works across different people, with different goals, with different perceptions and realities. It’s all a matter of reality, perspective, and what is right for YOU.

For me, the F1 Italian Grand Prix has just ended, my McLaren team was running 7th and 8th to lap 48 of 53 when Danny shut his car down and the race ended with Max Verstappen winning again, and Lando coming in 7th. And the last 90 minutes have been perfectly balanced with my wife Dana, dogs Cricket and Otis and spending virtual time writing this with each of you – it works for me.

But what works for you?



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