I sometimes get asked, “So, Harry, what are the questions most frequently asked by your Kellogg students and executives during your classes and presentations?” After a little self-reflection, I thought it may be interesting to include some of these questions along with my “opinions” in my blog posts every few weeks (remember, I always say I have very few answers but many opinions, which is why rather than “Q&A” I engage in “Q&O”).

So here’s the first installment in my new “Ask Harry” series!

Ask Harry #1

”Given the many things I am trying to accomplish every day, how can I achieve work/life balance?”

First of all, I believe that describing the challenge as achieving “work/life balance” doesn’t make sense because it sounds like you are either “working” or “living.” However, if working isn’t part of living, what is it? Rather, I like to describe the goal as “LIFE BALANCE” because most people are trying to balance their lives. And yes, many of us consider work an important part of our lives, but hopefully, it is only one part.

When I was writing my third book, “Your 168: Finding Purpose and Satisfaction in a Values-based Life,” I asked many people what “life balance” meant to them. We all have 168 hours in a week (24 hours x 7 days). What I discovered was that virtually everyone can summarize their activities into one of six “buckets” (although some people don’t use all six):
–Career and education
–Family and friends
–Religious and spiritual
–Health (including sleep and exercise)
–Fun and enjoyment
–Social responsibility (making a difference in the world)

The key is to determine what the right balance of your 168 is for YOU! There is no one “correct balance;” it will be different for each person. The challenge is to take the time to understand where you are currently spending your time and how different that is from your personal goal for “life balance.”

Students and execs often admit to me privately that they are having trouble determining what they should balance. My opinion is that it is hard to determine “life balance” if you haven’t self-reflected on what really is important to you. Taking the time to ask some key questions can help you in the process:
–What are your values?
–What is your purpose?
–What REALLY matters in your life, now and in the future?

One more thought: I have come to the conclusion that it is probably not possible to ACHIEVE “life balance;” rather, we can PURSUE “life balance.” If you are close to achieving your “life balance”, congratulations! However, if there is a big difference between your goals and where you are spending your time, it may be helpful to examine what the root cause is of that variance. Is it because you said something was important (e.g., your family, health, or religious practices), but it really isn’t that important to you? Or is it because you have not been disciplined and focused enough to follow through on what you said was most important? Probably a good place for some “self-reflection.”

Good look on your journey of PURSUING “life balance”!!!!


Illustration by Mike Werner