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.

A Business Person Trying to Maintain His Balance - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/bowie15, Image #13200637

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, Create Your Personal Life Plan. It will equip you to live on-purpose, making time for those things that matter most.

Question: Is your life is in balance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://ryanwakefield.com/ Ryan Wakefield

    I’m wondering if you’ve ever thought about or explored the idea of health versus balance? It seems to me that living a healthy life is similar to balance, but it also allows for seasons where things might seem out of balance. For example, a healthy lawn begins with a balanced soil. But, even though the base is balanced there are certain seasons, that are healthy, that sure don’t seem balanced. (Spring and winter.) It would appear that something could be healthy and still have one aspect that is balanced and one that in unbalanced. Ultimately, as you point out, the foundational aspects have to stay balanced for a healthy life. Thanks for your insight.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That’s an interesting question. I’ll have to ponder it.

  • http://bentune.blogspot.com/ Ben Tune

    I just counted up my hours for the week and I’m up to 52.5 so far. Looks like I need to re-read your post.

  • Drew12345

    Great post. Balance is so important. I’m curious about one thing, though, and would love to know your thoughts. You mentioned that earlier in your career you were working up to 70 hours a week. Do you think you would have made it to your current position if you had worked a maximum 55 hour week earlier in your career?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think I would have. Parkin’s Law applies here: “Work expands to the time allotted for it.” In other words, I think having hard boundaries would have resulted in me being just as productive.

  • http://www.littlenaturalcottage.com Kristy Howard

    I’m a stay-at-home mother. I’m sure people look at my life (with four small children!) and think, “And how could YOU be over doing it, honey?” My “office” is my kitchen, for pity’s sake! :)

    While reading your post, it didn’t take long for me to realize that ANYONE’s life can be out-of-balance– even mine.

    It seems pious to “sacrifice” and stay at home for your family and all, but even mother can be distracted. I can be at home and not really BE at home. Not connected with my children, my husband, or even the Lord.

    We all have to prioritize. Regularly. Sometimes it takes the spot light of the Holy Spirit to point out just where our imbalances lie.

  • http://twitter.com/carmenhill Carmen Hill

    Ack! This hits very close to home right now. Thanks for the reminder and wise perspective.

  • Guest

    some people are not rich enough for this.

  • Javed Mortuza

    Thanks for the great post! Until I read it, I didn’t think about the sacrifices I was making by working those crazy hours. It was an eye opener.

  • Frank4

    I am a family man and Christian. I run a slowly growing business with a small group of work-at-home employees, and I also work/travel 50+ hours a week consulting. I’ve been doing this routine for 4 years straight, not to mention the 60+ hours/week of consulting during the previous 10 years when I was younger. I have been unsuccessful in making time to simply be creative about my realtionships for many years. In addition, the things that are truly important to me are constantly taking a back-burner to what “buzzes” the loudest to get my attention. My health is borderline, not including my significant increase in weight. I believe the only reason I’m still effective at business is because I make decisions very quickly and I delegate alot.

    I rarely keep in touch with my friends. I don’t even have time to go on Facebook. And most importantly, I can see my family very vividly slipping away, and they (mostly my wife) are the 4 most important people to me on this earth. My biggest complaint from my wife is my inability to “follow-thru” with the things I start. And she now feels like she’s the least important thing in my life. Nothow I feel at all, but I understand why she would conclude this.

    I always thought that as soon as the business takes off, I can stop working all these consulting hours. But I now know that that will be too late.

    The business looks promissing, but we began just before the big recession and it’s been slow moving, although moving in a positive direction. Between the initial purchase and putting it on its feet, the business has racked up a good amount of debt which we have begun servicing this year for the next 5 years at this rate; tranlsated: I can’t bring in less than we’re bringing in now.

    I can only hope that stopping this maddness right now will save my marriage and allow me to to start directing my family with more purpose.

    I’m hoping something in the free e-book helps me make this big shift.

    God bless.

    Frank4

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I hope it does, too, Frank. There’s a lot at stake. I would encourage you to do the life plan. Just articulating what you want out of life will make a big difference, even if you don’t know how to get there.

  • Dawsonjj

    It sounds nice to be able to control work hours, but for many people our hours are dictated by our supervisors, managers or CEOs. I owned my own business for 15 years and worked 70 hours per week, I was never tired as I enjoyed the business immensely. But you are right in the fact it took a lot away from my two children and wife and really myself. 
    But since that time I have work for several companies who have the attitude, if you don’t like the work schedules, go somewhere else. Your time is mine and that is all here is to it. I am now 64 working under those same conditions. I don’t have the drive I once had which is okay, but when employees cannot make a difference in how the company is to achieve success and opinions are not acceptable, and there are no policies or procedures for our jobs, it really makes for what I would call a hostile work environment. I have worked 3 different shifts per week. Only two others have this problem. The rest work straight shifts and we have no recourse. So, sadly the only recourse we have to quit. I am convinced management is trying to force the issue and hire in people of there choice. I am wanting to hang on for another 2 years, but it is difficult.