How to achieve work-life imbalance

By now everyone on the planet has officially shared their opinion about the issue of work-life balance. It is almost the only thing it has been possible to read about in the last month – thanks, Marissa Mayer! – especially if the article in any way mentions women. Everybody seems to be trying to find a work-life solution that will afford them happiness.

But happiness is hard, and how exactly would you define “happiness”? Aristotle wrote a whole book on the subject, and I barely understand a word of it. But I’ve also heard that misery loves company, and I definitely understand that. So allow me to share with you a few thoughts on work-life balance that should help you become the bitter, inconsolable shell of a person I really want you to be.

Never turn off your electronics! The entire reason you have a portable computer and a portable cell phone is to remind you that you have no excuse for not working all the time. It might take a little work, but you can learn to type an email while running on a treadmill. Personally, I can’t wait until they allow phone calls on airplanes so that tiny little cabin is filled with the cacophonous rattle of dozens of conversations all conducted at a volume loud enough to be heard over the jet engines. In fact, I see no reason for anyplace to be sacred. So send emails in church, scan reports while you tuck your kids into bed, and definitely have a news feed scrolling on your iPad while you’re in bed with your loved ones trying to make new kids you can also ignore when you eventually tuck them in for the night. You can sleep when you’re dead – which, if you follow this piece of advice, should happen sooner than you think!

Convince yourself that you are too important to take a vacation! William H. Macy, who has acted in approximately 12 billion movies, once said, “Everyone in Hollywood is replaceable.” And he’s right – after all, when was the last time you saw a movie with William H. Macy? There are actually instances of CEOs dying in plane crashes, which can be interpreted as equivalent to an extremely long vacation. Do you know what usually happens to those companies? They keep operating. Perhaps they suffer for a short time, but they eventually find a way to move forward. Which means it might – it just might – be possible for you to take a long weekend here and there without destroying everything you’ve worked so hard to build.


Refuse to recognize the incontrovertible truth that every decision comes with consequences! This is easily, easily, easily the most important thing you can do to suffer a long and unsatisfying life. There is absolutely no way around this fact: If you marry yourself to your job, you will sacrifice some amount of your personal life; and if you spend too much time on personal pursuits, you will sacrifice some amount of career advancement. Jack Welch, former head of GE and a man who gets around $200,000 a day to go to conferences and be crotchety, basically admitted that his kids were almost completely raised by their mother and that his single-minded focus on his career was the reason that his first marriage failed. And given the fact that Marissa Mayer’s son will spend his infancy in an office and his childhood being cared for by surrogates while his mom flies around the country all the time, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that he’ll grow up feeling less important to his mom than her job. The point is, the longer you refuse to acknowledge the fact that every decision carries consequences, the longer you’ll beat your head against the wall trying to find a perfect solution for every one of your desires when it fact such a state of affairs absolutely doesn’t exist. So insist on having it all! The more you demand a life without compromise, the more embittered and frustrated you’ll become.

So there you go! No matter how much capacity you possess, life is a teeter-totter; when one thing goes up, another goes down. So be the fat kid on the seesaw! Devote all of your energy to your career (or to your personal life), and then rail against the injustice of humanity when the neglected half of your life refuses to fix itself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go to the bar with some friends, watch some NCAA games, and wonder why it is that I’m not running a multinational conglomerate right now.

Jeff Havens is a corporate speaker and trainer who helps people succeed at leadership, communication, professional development, and more by telling them exactly what not to do. He’s the author of How To Get Fired! and Unleash Your Inner Tyrant!