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Work-Life Balance May Not Mean What You Think

As an executive and business owner, I have to chuckle sometimes when I see books like “The 4-Hour Workweek.” Work-life balance is not a 4-hour workweek.

Don't get me wrong, I actually like that book, it has some solid advice. But I feel like the expectation that material like that sets up is completely unrealistic for those who want to make it as a business owner or executive.

You aren't going to build a successful business if you only work a few hours a week, at least not any time soon. It is possible to get there and I've helped many decrease their hours while being more productive than ever, but to become successful in the first place to the point that you can afford to buy back your time requires first putting in the time.

See, most of the people I work with as a business and leadership coach who focuses on the area of work-life balance are working 60+ hour work weeks. Those people are happy to get back to a 40-hour workweek, or even just to take a nice vacation.

My clients are normally highly successful on the professional side of the equation. Unfortunately, their personal life is often suffering because they don't know how reduce their hours without impacting their business. Many want to have kids and know that working 80 hours a week isn't conducive to a good family environment. Others have already suffered the consequences by going through a divorce, and know they need to find balance.

That's a far cry from a 4-hour workweek.

Work-life balance doesn't mean not working.

Balance means BALANCE.

Work-Life Balance Means Being Present at Home

Balance means being there for your wife when your kids are born.

Seeing them take some of their first steps.

Reading to your kids at night when they're young.

Being there the first day your daughter goes to soccer practice.

It's talking to her after that first breakup. Balance includes intentionally creating lasting memories with summer vacations, and of course, being around for her graduation and wedding.

It means being there to talk to your friends and find out how their week went. Having time to be a good friend and helping in times of need.

Balance means finding time to do things YOU enjoy as well. Maybe that's reading, taking in a movie, or going for a hike. Whatever makes you happy, you should be able to spend some time doing those things.

Work-Life Balance Means Being Present at Work

It also means being there for your team at work.

Balance is answering the call when a member of your team needs help and bailing them out when necessary. You need to pull your own weight and be a valued member of the team to be successful.

It's having time to be encouraging, motivating, as well as providing direction and constructive feedback.

Balance means finding time to do the things that are necessary to be successful in all areas of your life.

Balance is Being There Regularly and When it Counts

All of those things require you to be present, at work and at home. You don't have to divide your day exactly to achieve balance. One day maybe you work twelve hours and the next you work four and spend twelve at home.

I just worked an 18.5 hour day the other day. That may seem bad, but I then turned around and spent several days on the lake with my kids.

If either of those two things were the norm, that wouldn't be very balanced. If you're spending every day until late at night in the office that's not good for your home life. But if you're spending every day on the lake, that isn't going to help your professional life.

Work-Life Balance: Photos of lifestyle coach Don Smith relaxing with family and working hard.
Work-Life Balance Means Being Present Where it Counts

Work-life balance doesn't mean a four-hour workweek. It doesn't even mean leaving by 5:01 every day.

It means being present where and when it counts, and intentionally making time for the important things. When you can be present regularly and during the critical moments both at home and at work, you've found balance.

Stop counting the hours.

Start making the hours count.

Don Smith

The Personal Growth Channel founder, Smith also runs a technology company and is a former bank director. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois.