Five Consequences of a Life Out of Balance

If you are working more than fifty-five hours a week, you are working too much and likely out of balance. You may be able to work more than this for a season, but it is not sustainable. If you persist in working this much—or more—something will eventually break.

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Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.com/bowie15

When I first began my publishing career, I was determined to succeed. Part of what drove me was fear. I didn’t have any experience, and I was scared to death I would be found out.

However, I was also driven by the desire to achieve. I would later learn from the StrengthsFinder™ test that my top strength is “Achiever.” As a result, I loved climbing the corporate ladder, moving from one level to the next.

In those early years, I would arrive at the office at 5:00 a.m. and not leave until 6:00 p.m. Since I would usually be at my desk during lunch, this was thirteen hours a day. I would almost always go into the office on Saturday, too. I was routinely working seventy hours a week.

My dear wife, Gail, was patient, but with several small children, she really needed relief. It took some serious marriage counseling for me to realize that my work/life balance was totally out of whack. It was simply not sustainable.

Think of it this way: If you are working more than fifty-five hours a week, you are out of balance. You are putting at risk at least five very important assets.

  1. Your health. Early in my career, I thought I could get by by eating junk food and not exercising. However, I learned that this will inevitably catch up with you. How many people do you know who have died young, simply because they refused to take care of themselves?
  2. Your family. You can’t afford a divorce. The cost is incalculable. Just ask those who have gone through one. You also can’t afford to ignore your children. If you don’t invest in them now, you will be forced to spend time with them later—in rehab, in juve, or worse.
  3. Your friends. Sadly, I didn’t really have any close, personal friends until about five years ago. I thought that my work colleagues and church acquaintances were enough. Not so much. I have several great friends now that mean the world to me. But I must have margin in my life to invest in those relationships.
  4. Your effectiveness. I think you are the most productive when you are relaxed. Work is like golf—or any sport. The harder you work, the less effective you’ll be. You are the most productive when you are not stressed. The number of hours you work has almost zero correlation with your effectiveness.
  5. Your example. Your people will unconsciously mimic you. They can’t help it. As a leader you set the pace. If you work seventy hours a week, your people will think they must work seventy hours a week. Most of them won’t be able to keep up. And you will be responsible for the consequences.

Don’t get me wrong. I still work hard. But now I have boundaries—and balance. I get into the office at 8:30 a.m. and I leave promptly at 6:00 p.m. I also work for two hours on Sunday evening, preparing for the new week. In total that’s about 50 hours—give or take.

If you want to get your life back into balance, I suggest that you grab a copy of my free e-book, Shave 10 Hours of Your Workweek. It will help you get more done in less time, so you can reinvest those hours in what matters most.

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