Let me begin by saying work-life balance isn’t what you do with your time; it’s what you do with your heart. For example, I know people who work two jobs to provide for their family and still have balance in their life. They do because they know how to create and take “Their time” and also “Me time.” Here’s an example: I recently attended an awards ceremony. The honoree told a story I will never forget. Her family had modest means, but she was an exceptional student. So much so, that she got a full scholarship to one of the most exclusive prep programs in the country. Kids of some of the most affluent families went there. Here’s how rich they were: The family jet would come pick them up from school. (Damn! Now that is rich!) She talked about how her father would write her letters and how all of those rich kids would gather around her to read them. They did so because they didn’t get any from their parents. When the kids did get gifts or cards, they didn’t open them because she said they knew their dad’s assistant probably got them. Celest and I were fortunate to be seated at the same table with her father when she told that story and accepted the “Executive of the Year” award.
Hearing that story made me think of the great advice I received from a sage mentor when I moved into a position with greater responsibility. He knew I would be traveling frequently, and, when I was home, I would have to participate in business dinners with customers and others. He told me to do these “little” things that kept my heart in balance:
When you have to business dinner at a restaurant in town, bring your significant other home a dessert and eat it together.
When going on long business trips, leave your significant other and kids handwritten notes in different places in the house—places where you know they will go.
When on the road, send them “Good morning!” texts and always try to call them before bed, even if the call is only 5 to 10 minutes.
When you are home, develop some kind of special routine. For example, my wife told me how her father, who worked many jobs, would make breakfast every Saturday morning. Her eyes still light up to this day whenever she talks of it because it was “Their time.” I also know of a senior executive who made time to coach his daughter’s soccer team.
It’s also important that you develop a special routine for yourself to maintain balance. For example, every other Friday afternoon, I would leave work around 3pm and have a cigar and margarita on our deck. My old-school music would be playing in the background. Those two hours gave me tremendous personal balance because it was “Me time.”
Work will require a lot of your time, but it doesn’t require all of your heart. Putting all of your heart into work is a conscious decision that you--and you alone--will make. A couple of hours of “Their time” and “Me time” will balance out a full day of work.