We talk about it – strive for it but – what is work/life balance? According to Wikipedia, it is: a concept including the proper prioritization between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, pleasure, leisure, family.) When we looked up the careers that held the greatest promise for work/life balance – any kind of management role was absent from the top ten. So it seems one of the keys to achieving it is to avoid being responsible for others. Really?

This tension between work and lifestyle are classic “competing commitments.” As such, it resists any formulaic solution. It won’t help you to count up what was sacrificed on either side. How many recitals is a major promotion worth? – seems like a silly question but one people struggle with constantly.

Two facts work against this concept: most jobs are never done. No extra time, skipped holidays, late nights at the office will be sufficient to complete the work. So the boundaries have to be set by you. Second, just because no one advocates for you in the conflict, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve at least what others get out of the deal – self-sacrifice is a sucker’s play. The highest form of altruism is that you will do for yourself that which you will do for others.

I talk to executives all the time about “putting in the hours.” A notion entertained by many that with the sacrifice, advancement, influence and wealth will follow. It seems clear that on the day of reckoning, you’ll not be asked to justify why you didn’t get more cases out, or more opinions written or more copy produced in your time on Earth. So how do we deal with the dilemma? We recommend three steps:

Be clear about your purpose. Are your life work and life in service of a purpose greater than yourself? If so, go to step two. If not, get clear now. Why are you here on this Earth? You get it right and everything feels easier and more aligned. Get it wrong, everything seems hard. Everything.
Take stock of your roles and relationships. Those that align with your purpose move to the top of your list. Your time, resources and attention should focus on the top-of-your-list items. If your time is allocated to lower priorities, time for reallocation. The responsible approach is to reallocate without killing yourself off. This may take time, but starting now is always better.
Once you have aligned yourself with your purpose choose the “metrics that matter” to gauge how you are doing. Chances are the misalignment you awoke in will creep back into your life if you don’t figure out a way to course-correct over time.

Good luck. The ROI on this effort will be massive. We wish you well.