Is work life balance a myth?

Not everyone who writes about balancing your life actually has “street cred”, but I do. My experience of balancing “life” is from having three kids, two who are in college, one in high school, and what I call my permanent “furry baby”, or our five year old Golden Doodle, as well as a frog and lizard. I also have a husband who’s office is 200 miles from our house and who has commuted there for four years, a sister, brother, Mom and Dad and in-laws as well as relatives from their relationships. I am fortunate to have friends I met as far back in elementary school in the fourth grade (e.g., Greg, Kathy & Monique), and I have maintained these aspects of my life while working full-time in the demanding high technology marketing industry for more than 20 years. The first thing I will tell you is this has not been easy. The second thing I will tell you is I would not trade my experiences for anything. However, I now have perspective on balancing my life, and I will share this perspective with you.

Being a full-time working Mother puts you in a position of constantly weighing the pros and cons of decisions on an hourly basis, sometimes simultaneously both at work and home. So, it has been critical for me to be able to have my family reach me at all times, meaning my mobile phone is always on and with me. There have also been numerous times during my career when I have often excused myself during important professional conversations when my children or other family members have reached out to me. Yes, this might seem impolite, but I prioritize my family over work 100% of the time. No job or career is worth the reverse of this prioritization, especially if you are in a field that demands you work excessively long hours. I also do not apologize for taking these calls, and that is a whole other topic I will be writing about, as women apologize way to often for things they should not be apologizing for.

Friends are another part of the equation, which you should never forget to maintain as part of your balance. I have seen too many people compromise their friendships because they are unable to simply send a text once in awhile to their friends to let them know they are thinking about them. If you really want to let them know you are thinking about them, you can drop them a handwritten note, or buy them a cute card, or simply leave them a voicemail. When was the last time you received a card from a friend of yours “just because” they were thinking of you? I regularly send my friends cards for this reason, or leave them extended voicemails.

Proper amounts of sleep, nutrition and exercise are also fundamental aspects of obtaining life balance. Yes, there are times when each of these will be compromised. However, the point is to make each a priority, and to strive to maintain as much discipline as you can with making these aspects of your life a priority too. At times in my life when I was averaging 5-6 hours of sleep at night, not able to exercise or eat the proper food, I paid dearly for this by feeling overly stressed, exhausted and as if I had no control over my schedule or life. With help from friends and family, by reprioritizing these aspects of my life, I was able to get back on track and have my life come back into balance. Again, this was not easy, and I ask you to be kind to yourself and not become overly frustrated when you get out of balance. You also have to realize you are not a “super hero”, and it is fine to ask for help from others, as you can reciprocate when they will need you at some point.

Of course there are other facets of my life and yours you want to factor into the mix, and this is when it gets really interesting in terms of a balancing act. However, I think this is the fun part, as the “trick” to streamlining all the other facets of your life are accomplished by literally scheduling them, or writing them down on a “to do” list. As many of you know about me, I am a huge fan of “to do” lists. It’s because of these lists I am able to accomplish all I do, as I have found that if I write something down, it will get done. Once it is written down, it is like my “up-front-contract” to adhere to and to make it happen. Perhaps not in the exact timeframe of when I wanted it to, but as close to when it would be possible to accomplish the item (e.g., travel, coach and see our kids participate in their sporting or other activities, take a course, work on my hobbies, go to the gym, spend quality time with family/friends, etc.).

I am not saying my life is perfect, as I do not think there is such a thing, and I do believe you can strike a balance in your life and accomplish more than you imagine is possible. I firmly believe I have struck a balance in my life, and I look forward to continuing to do so given the opportunity. Lastly, I hope my shared experience on creating and having balance in my life might help you to do so too, or provide you with some thoughts on how to strike your own balance in life.

Thanks to Holden Laquerre and Patrick Sweeney for encouraging me to write, and by picking this topic from my list of topics to write about next. Up next will be the topic on “Staying passionate about something.”

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

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