Work Family Balance - Chapter 1 - Go Home

Questions This Guidance Answers: 
  • How do I achieve work/family balance?
  • Is work/family balance a myth?
  • How do I fit all my work in and go home on time?

This guidance describes the fundamental error in trying to achieve "Work-Family Balance" and how to solve it forever.

The Work-Family Balance challenge is such a common question that it inevitably becomes one of the first answers Mark gives when he takes open questions at gatherings.

The answer to the problem is simple, and it starts with understanding that we have all been solving the wrong problem.

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Yep, Hall Of Fame Cast

Glad to hear the themes of the Sydney Q&A elaborated on.  I didn't hear you say it in this cast, but I did love the point you made in Sydney:  That effective executives and managers manage risk by putting it in the place where it will do the least damage.  What that means is that if there is risk to both family and/or work, then the job takes the risk.

Sorry if I've paraphrased wrong but I love the simple logic of that.

brilliant cast! I have

brilliant cast!

I have learned with you that its all about priorities management: you put up time for family, define time for work and manage your priorities in that time - challenging and always fascinating how you can get more done with less time!


I Get It But My Boss Doesn't

I am absoultely able to prioritize properly, work VERY efficiently when I am at work and get a lot more done than my peers. Unfortunately, my boss equates long hours at the office with efficiency. He and my colleagues may work longer hours but they don't get nearly as much done as I do. In fact my boss told me the other day that he was really impressed my progress on a specific project given the short time I have been working on it.

I need a way to discuss the points you brought up in the Cast without sounding like I am bragging or not being a team player. If I work 9 hours, I get the amount of work that others require at least 11 hours. That extra 2 hours are my family time commitments and I don;t want to have to spend the time in the office just for "face time."

Any advice?

Re: [ I Get It But My Boss Doesn't ]

I can tell you what not to do: If you are in a culture that values "sweat equity" or "face time" ( I worked at such a firm for a good number of years), I don't recommend contradicting that culture.

I worked for an engineering firm for many years, and the partners did (nasty as it may sound) place a high value on seeing you at 8pm or on Saturdays. They were all there, working lots and lots of time. And, to them, that signaled dedication.

One year, in a review (I was a fairly junior manager with a new baby girl), I mentioned that I'd been measuring my overtime. And, I casually indicated that I'd like to "be efficient" and hold my overtime to "say, 100-150 hours a year".

I can tell you, I never recovered from that. It killed my potential in the eyes of the partners. For years running, they would reference my "limitations", my "limited commitment", or my "priorities".  I tried re-opening the discussion, re-stating my intent; it didn't matter. It didn't even matter how much time I worked! They always saw me in terms of someone who was not committed.

Eventually, (and quite sadly, I should say) I left the company. It was a real shame, because I 'd put a lot of time and equity into my career there.

In retrospect, and in the spirit of the yellow peanut M&M, I should have quit much earlier. The values of the company culture conflicted with my personal values. There was no synergy to be had; one of us had to loose. And, frankly, I was the minority.  The good news is this: there are plenty of other places to work. My current employer and boss are much more understanding, and I'm much happier.


Travis English

Southern California



You may be interpretting your boss' acessment?

 Vbullara, i don't quite understand what the problem is because your boss seem to be recognizing your efficiency.  What i have experience in engineering is that there is a lot of peer pressure to work long hours, not necesarily coming from the boss.  I agree it is not easy to handle but not necesarily it will affect your bosses evaluation of your work. You may have had other comments from your boss that suggest he values long hours but the comment you mentioned here does not necesarily mean that.  I would just take the comment as a complement to your efficiency.  If you keep delivering you will get ahead despite not putting in long hours.  What usually does annoy a project manager in engineering is leaving early, or ontime, and not meeting deadlines.  Not meeting deadlines and working late also doesn't solve the problem, but then there is An. Excuse for being overworked or something like that that fool some managers, which you will not be able to use because you are not overworked in terms of hours spent at work.  Keep delivering the good work and make sure your  boss know that  if needed you will stay long hours. That day may Neves come, but if there is An. Important deadline to be met that requires extra hours make sure you are available.  Át. Least it has worked for me, i gained work hour flexibility by doing that, my boss given me the flexibility and shorter work days i need to deal with family matters and i give them back longer hours when therDe are peaks in project requirements.

Why do you feel you need to discuss the points from the podcast with your boss?  While i have seen bosses be very flexible with work schedule, they don't like when asked about it as in ahyphotetical scenario, i guess it must sound like a complain for too much work.  I believe it is best to ask for permission for time off when needed and always say and make sure you deliver what is expected from you and a bit more. If you are too concern you may comment directly with your boss in a very humble way that you are concern that you see everybody working late that you don't want to do that because you focus on being very effective and commited for the 9 hours you are át. Work and you cannot keep the same focus after that as your mind shifts to family concerns. Say that you are worried that that could be wrongly interpreted as lack of commitment which is not the case. Just reafirm your commitment. And see what he says and based on that decide what to say and do. But if your boss hás not complain to you about you not delivering something or not working as hard as everyone else, the problem is entirely in your head. Your boss may still wonder why you don't put the extra hours, but if you deliver results and He sees the results agaín and agaín that will be sufficient. I believe manager tools has a career tool podcast which talks about how to get feedback from your boss. If i recall correctly you ask your boss about your strength and weakness and whether you have any fatal flaw. You only ask though if you are willing to modify your behaviour to correct your fatal flaw though and if your boss is reasonably nice. Do listen to the podcast, I think it Maybe what you need to avoid being in the uncertainty.


Brilliant and Hall of Fame indeed

 This will be a "Hall of Famer" for sure.  The Yellow Peanut M&M concept is spot on.  When I work with leaders/managers, I emphasize it's choice.  As you said, we tell ourselves something is a need, but really just a want.  Five real needs: food, water, oxygen, protection from the elements, and eventually sleep.  So much of our imbalance is secondary to choices, and we forgot what the main thing really is (quoting the late Dr. Covey - to live, learn, love, and live a legacy).  Somebody shared a great blog entitled "The Busy Trap" which also fits nicely with this outstanding podcast.  Here's the link: 

excellent cast

 as someone on the chopping block,  i can appreciate the relevance of this cast

Great cast!

This cast was great! I'm pretty passionate about this topic so it was cool to hear your take on it, I'm looking forward to the additional casts! Hopefully this will give new perspective to some listeners.

I had it all wrong...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this cast!  

My husband put a link to this cast on his facebook wall with the saying: "I had it all wrong...."

Not family tools but it sure helps!

Thank you.  This cast has made a difference in my life!


"Your priorities is what you do."

great cast!

It is a shame that we remain hung-up on naming conventions, work/life balance, for example.  I agree 100% that life should take precedence over work.  An old friend of mine said, "I work to live; not live to work."  I always found this small distinction the force that pushes me to go home and leave work at work.  Great topic and I can't wait to hear more!

Hall of Fame? More like All-Galaxy!!!

Anthony Ridnell

CEO, TRInternational, Inc.

Balance is definitely the wrong word!

This was definitely a hall of fame episode. You were right to think that! I have very similar feelings. I schedule my work around family and church events. I actually wrote a blog post titled "the Work/Life Balance Conundrum" at that discusses the topic.

Keep up the great work!

I am writing a term paper on

I am writing a term paper on this topic and came across your post which was very helpful. Do you know where I can find more information about this? foreclosure attorneys

 I was just surfing through

 I was just surfing through the web and came across your article. It is very difficult to balance work and family. Well I think mark is doing the right thing by answering about the same in open questions at gatherings.see here

 Well this is good article

 Well this is good article that my sense tell me to share it on everywhere I view the website like this. Now I will be doing the same like that. Open Air Places in Pune


What if you work from home?

What if you work from home? It is difficult to get away from the office if you literally live at the office. It is just too easy to just keep working. Although it is easier not to have to drive anywhere it is nice to get dressed to physically go to work. It's even worse if you don't have a family. This may help. Well. It may help if you have been in a car accident of some sort.