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Success Article
May, 2001

How to Balance Your Career and Your Family
So Both Are Rewarding and Enjoyable

by Debra Pestrak

The biggest challenge many people face is how to balance time with their family, friends, and career. While they want a happy and fulfilling life outside of the office, they know they must make some personal sacrifices in order to achieve their career aspirations.

But how do you balance those sacrifices so they don’t greatly interfere with your personal goals? How do you fit roles such as husband, wife, mother, and father into your already hectic schedule? Since time is precious, keeping a balance between the two worlds is often a challenge.

Fortunately, with proper planning, balancing work and family is a challenge that can be overcome. Recently, several Fortune 500® corporate executives revealed their balancing strategy. They’re proof that it is possible to have not only a successful career, but also a rewarding and enjoyable personal life as well.

Set Your Priorities Early

The first step to achieving balance is to get your family to agree on what the priorities should be. Realize that business success often requires long hours and sometimes travel. In these instances, support from your family has to be there. Additionally, when children are involved, many people discover that they have to re-balance their lives so they have time to spend with the kids.

Ellen Hancock, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exodus Communication, describes both her personal and professional life as successful, but not necessarily balanced. However, this situation worked for her because she had the buy-in of each family member. As she explains, “There are sacrifices. But your friends and family, your spouse, your parents, all do have to support the situation and have an understanding that yes, this is important and so are friends and family.” Hancock goes on to explain that her schedule did not always allow her to be as available as others, but she managed to do what it took to keep everyone happy.

Hancock, like many others, made the decision that family was indeed a top priority. As such, they strove for new ways to carve out family time each day. They were aware of the fact that no one ever says at the end of their life, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”

Jean Hamilton, Chief Executive Office, Prudential Institutional, used some of her business practices to make time for family. She says, “There are several kinds of sacrifices that I have found to be the hardest. One is that the time I have to spend with my family and friends is not what I would want it to be. That’s why I began to focus on ways to be more efficient with my personal time. In fact, I began applying some of the efficiency tools that I learned from business. I started to get very aggressive about scheduling time with friends and family. It all goes on my calendar. That’s the way I have to deal with things in business, so I did the same outside of the office. Using those kinds of tools helps me minimize the sacrifices.”

Consider What Is Right for You

When placed in identical situations, no two people will make the same choices. Each person has to evaluate the event and then make a decision based on what is right for him or her at the moment. Just because an outcome worked for one person, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for another.

Everyone has to prioritize their own lives and decide what is most important to them. Where do you want to spend your time and energy? How important is your career in the scheme of your life? How do you define success?

Mary Farrell, Managing Director, Senior Investment Strategist and Member of the Policy Committee for PaineWebber, Inc., made a decision that she would not be available for global travel. That affected her career, and she understood that. She didn’t expect to not be competitive across the board and that it would be overlooked. Many others in her position would not have made such a drastic decision, but Farrell made the best choice based on her values.

Every day we hear of increasing numbers of people who reach the pinnacle of their careers and decide it’s time for another stage in their lives. They quit their jobs, start a family, change careers, or take an extended leave. Others start businesses out of their home so they can be with their family. What is right for one person is not always right for another. Only you can do what is right for you, your family, and your goals.

Deciding early in your career what is most important will help guide your career. Some companies are reluctant to support a person’s career advancement if they donít know the person’s goals—both personal and professional. Therefore, once you know what you want, communicate it to your management and get its support. If the company will not support your personal goals as well as your professional ones, then it’s time to evaluate whether or not this is a company you want to be working for.

Farrell searched long and hard for a company that would support her career and personal aspirations. She reveals, “I actually worked at several firms before I landed at a firm that was open to the kind of flexibility I needed. That was not an accident. That was part of my career goals, and I was very fortunate because I worked for someone who was very bottom-line oriented. As long as the work was done, my boss didn’t care if I went to the school play, and I managed to make it to a lot of them. It took a lot out of me to make up work at the end of the day, but of course, it was very important to me to be able to do that. You can’t always, but when you set your priorities and look at the big picture, it’s a lot easier to fit it all in place.”

Balance Points to Consider

Before you make any drastic changes to your personal or professional life, consider the implications of each decision and how you plan to integrate the decision into your current schedule. For example, what effect will having children have on your life? On the time you have to spend with other family members and friends? Also, think about how much time you would want to take off when you have a child. Do you want to come back to work full-time? What support system exists that can help you? Will you need to leave work at 5:00? If so, will that allow you to get the work done? If not, are you willing to take it home and do it there? Can you? How much control do you have over your workload? Do you have access to technology at home?

Different jobs have different requirements. Farrell found that by moving to research she was better able to achieve her goals. What about your current position? Study your field to see if it meets your future goals and aspirations. If not, it may be time to consider a change. However, whatever you do, be realistic about what career choices you make based on your values and priorities.

What’s Your Balancing Decision

We all make sacrifices to get what we want. Most of the top executives do not sleep eight hours. They have either decided that getting the work done is more important or they don’t need that much sleep. Many of them work on weekends or at least attend to their in-basket, emails, or voicemails then. This is a choice they make to have what they want. You may not want to make it to the very top, but think about where you want to go and what it will take to get there. What choices and sacrifices do you need to make today to achieve your goals tomorrow? 

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Success Thought



Whatever you want in life,
you must give up something to get it.
The greater the value, the greater the sacrifice required.
Everything has a price.

There’s a price to pay if you want to make things better,
a price to pay for just leaving things they way they are.

 Nothing worthwhile comes easily.
Continuous hard work is the only way to accomplish results that last.

You’ll find there is no success at bargain basement prices.
Just as everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

Great Quotations from Great Women

“We pay a price when we deprive children of the exposure to the values, principles and 
education they need to make them good citizens.”

— Sandra Day O’Connor

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About the Author

Debra Pestrak is a peak performance expert, an award-winning motivational speaker, and author of Playing with the Big Boys: Success Secrets of the Most Powerful Women in Business and Playing with the Big Boys & Girls in Real Estate. Debra is founder and CEO of Success Unleashed, Inc.®, a company dedicated to developing powerful programs that impact the way people think and work. Pestrak was a player in corporate America for 26 years, working her way up the ranks from a telephone operator to managing a $20 million budget. She also has instituted and led sales organizations, and is the past president of the National Speakers Association – San Diego. To discover more performance advice, contact the author at 888 SUN-3777.



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