No such thing as "Work Life Balance"

Jon Birdsong’s latest post inspired me to ask myself the same question: what does my perfect day look like?  Well, not including an early 18 holes on a Saturday morning, followed by a huge lunch, and then a nap in front of SEC College Football, here’s what I came up with.

First, however, a note on the title.  Darius “Bubs” Monsef changed my way of thinking earlier this year at Founder Fables when he rebuked the term “work-life balance”, and inserted “work life harmony”.  Why? Because as startup folks, our work can sometimes BE our life. Insert wife & kids, and you can’t balance the two. Balance implies two opposing forces, which can sometimes be the case, but it does not have to be.  Being intentional about achieving work-life harmony means integrating the two so purposefully that one doesn’t end and the other begin. Rather, one exists – thrives! – because of the other.

I’ll be the first to admit that I would never, ever have left my cushy fat job with FirstData in 2001 if my wife had not replied “go for it!” to my idea to quit my job, sell our stock, and start something new.  It’s that kind of encouragement and confidence that can only come from someone whose judgement and instincts you trust so deeply that you’d jump anywhere, anytime for that person. That’s my wife.  Harmony starts there.

So my perfect day? It’s a little different than Jon’s, mainly because we are in very different stages of our lives.  Married with two pre-teens in two different schools and working on my 7th startup adventure is simply different than Jon’s young, single (with girlfriend!), first founder/CEO adventure stage of life. We do both love golf though.  So here’s my ideal day:

  • 530am – up and either run 3-4 miles, lift weights, or do abs for 30-40 minutes. My workouts come from Body For Life. That’s what works for me.
  • 630am – cool down, and get the kids rolling out of bed
  • 700am – breakfast with the family
  • 800am – hit the office. I work from home and The Village about 50-50, though that varies with meeting schedules.  I go at it nonstop until 1130 or so. We’re pre-launch, so there’s tons of work to do (currently) finalizing our UX and continuing to advance our customer discovery.  I do reserve this time for meetings, wherever they might be, including getting to lunch meetings. I’m intentional about scheduling meetings so I can be at the kids’ school/athletic functions.
  • 1130 or noon – lunch, with my wife if I’m at home. Otherwise, a sandwich on the back porch or StartupChowdown at The Village.
  • 12-1 – creative time. I’m usually ready for a nap after lunch, but that’s only allowed on Sunday afternoons, so I’d prefer to use this time to white board new ideas. Most of them never make it off the white board, but the few that do usually get attempted somewhere in the not-to-distant future.
  • 1-4 – back at the pre-launch grind: services agreements, content for future content marketing push, more UX updates and changes, testing, testing, testing.
  • 4-6 – I keep this time generally open for after school kids activities. Between soccer, Atlanta Boy Choir, cheerleading, and Cross Country, there is always something to do, see, go to, or pick up from. And with 2 kids at 2 schools, you have to remain Semper Gumby: always flexible.
  • 6-8pm – family time. Homework. Reading. Fami-Wii nights, Duck Dynasty, dinner…you get the picture.
  • 8-9pm – last shot at finishing up anything that was started today. The default is everything shuts down at 9pm.
  • 9-10 – HER time. We share a glass of wine, stories from the day, plans for tomorrow, and whatever else comes to mind or needs to be discussed.
  • 10pm – this kid’s done.  I read until I fall asleep. Just finished the entire “Girl with Dragon Tattoo” trilogy. Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart. Currently reading The Count of Monte Cristo (again, 4th time), while I await Follett’s final book of his 20th century trilogy.

As you can see, the startup+family life of this 40-something Dad has to be in harmony, or it will fail.  I do love the daily updates with other CEOs. Perhaps that’s an idea for an ATV mid-week meetup? Who’s in?  Something that’s in both of our days is exercise. Clears the mind. Kicks up the endorphins. Keeps you young, and you gotta stay young in a startup.

What stage of life are you in? Closer to mine or Jonnybird’s?

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