Have you said or heard any of these lately?

  • “Work-life balance is important to me.”
  • “I’m interested in a balance between my career and my personal life.”
  • “Will this job allow me to maintain a balance between my job and my family?”
  • “How do you achieve work-life balance?”
  • “What’s your secret to balancing your job and your family?”

It’s a common challenge because both are important in our lives. At times in my career I failed at having balance, with my career winning, other times I succeeded.

I’ve learned three things about having a career and a personal life that may help you as you wrestle with it.

  1. There is no such thing as balance – it’s a constant adjustment – You can only achieve balance when two things are equal, which means your time, energy and commitment to each is the same, which they never are, nor can they be. When I hired someone to work on a team I led, I shared this message to them. “This job is important, and there will be times this job will need to be a priority. Your family/personal life is important and there will be times when it needs to be a priority for you. I expect you to know which needs to be a priority.” Accept that you will be constantly adjusting to meet the needs of each, and you shouldn’t feel guilty when you do. It’s life.
  2. Understand the difference between “need” and “want” – When you have something to do in your job that may keep you from family, be honest with yourself. Does it “need” to be you and if so, why? Are you the only one that knows how to do it? What happens if you don’t do it? Too often I find that people think they “need” to work long hours, doing those tasks, blaming the job for the hours required, but the reality is they “want” to be at work doing those things. Maybe work is where they feel most affirmed. Or, they are a perfectionist trying to make something perfect when their good work is sufficient. Have they learned to delegate to others or share responsibility in their team? If you are really needed, be there, but when you aren’t, go home.
  3. Find your voice – Rarely in my career have I found that there is something that your job requires of you and at the same time there is something in your personal life that requires your presence. Most often, there is a workable solution that will allow you to do both, but to find that solution requires you to “find your voice”, to speak up on behalf of your personal life or your job. In your conversation with other members of your team or the person you report to, offer workable alternatives and be open to their ideas too. A team member might cover for you and in return may ask you to do something for them. You might be able to leave to meet your home commitment, but if the deadline is firm, you may need to work later that evening or early the next day. The important thing is to talk about it. Don’t blame the company or your family, speak up because they are both important.

You can enjoy your career and your personal life, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. A requirement to be successful in this balancing act is to become flexible.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:7b (NLT)

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