Five Steps to Creating a Balanced Life

It was a simple business call. My colleague – “Larry” – had invited me to speak to his mastermind group on a teleconference later in the week. Nothing out of the ordinary. But my sister-in-law’s mouth was hanging wide open.

“I can’t believe he called you at 9:00 at night! Don’t you think that is totally inappropriate?”, Nancy asked.

Larry wanted me to speak to his mastermind group about accelerating their businesses’ growth via multi-channel marketing. Given the fact that his attendee list included people like Tony Hsieh, Tony Robbins, and John Carlton – people I personally considered my mentors – I was honored to accept.

When I tried explaining this to my sister-in-law, she just waved her hand and said, “In my day, when you left the office at 5:00, you were done until 9:00 the next morning.”

I thought about dropping the subject, but I couldn’t resist the challenge.

She opted for early retirement about six years ago – but I asked her if, during her working years, she’d ever left the office to pick up a sick kid from school, go to a dentist appointment, or meet the cable man at her house.

When she begrudgingly nodded her head yes, I knew I had her attention. And I hope I have yours as well. If you think that your work life exists only between 9:00 and 5:00… and that your home and social life exists only between 5:00 and 9:00, you need to make a change.

I recommend that you resolve, right here and now, to make your life better, more rewarding, and more balanced. And I’m going to help you do it.

Who am I to talk about balance? Well, I’m a happily married mother of three who runs a business (with 38 employees), and a foundation, and is heavily involved in her kids school and sporting activities. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten pretty good at managing all the different aspects of my life in a way that makes me feel happy and proud.

The very first step to creating a happier, healthier lifestyle is to realize that “9:00 to 5:00” no longer applies. By giving yourself the flexibility to do business at all hours of the day or night, you are actually better able to enjoy both your work and your family even more.

This may sound counter-intuitive but by taking the following five simple steps, you will be able to break free of the 9:00 to 5:00 shackles.

Step One: Define what a balanced life means to you.

Many people think that having a balanced life means spending the same number of hours on work as you do on personal activities. This is a big mistake, because most of the time it’s not realistic.

To define what will work for you, you need to take into consideration that life is constantly changing. And the right balance for you today may not be the right balance for you tomorrow or next week or next month, because over time your priorities change.

Step Two: Create Boundaries

Some people may agree with my sister-in-law that receiving a business call at 9:00 at night is inappropriate. But the way I look at it is that Larry is someone who is good for my organization and good for my career. Besides, when I met him at a conference earlier this year, he asked me for the best way to reach me. I gave him my e-mail address and my cell number. So why shouldn’t he call?

And keep in mind that I made the decision to take his call that night – I created the boundary. It happened to be a good time to talk. However, if he’d made the call 90 minutes earlier – when I was doing homework with the kids – I would have let it go to voice mail and called him back when it was convenient for me.

Later that week, I was the keynote speaker on the mastermind teleconference Larry had invited me to. Many of the attendees learned a great deal. In fact, I got several e-mails from attendees saying they’d purchased Changing the Channel, the book on multi-channel marketing that I co-authored with Michael Masterson. Others called or e-mailed to ask if they could promote the book to their in-house list.

Had I adopted the attitude that I would do business only from 9:00 to 5:00, I may have lost out on a wonderful opportunity that proved to be valuable both to my company and to me personally.

Because I advocate balance, I support the efforts my team members make in striving for balance in their own lives. Some of them work in the evening and/or on the weekends. So I have no problem with it if they need to leave to take care of something personal. I truly believe that your accomplishments aren’t dependent on how much time you spend in the office.

Step Three: Learn how to say “No.”

No one wants to say no to their boss, their spouse, their employees, their friends, or their kids. But to achieve balance, you are going to have to do it once in a while.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. And we cannot possibly do everything that we want to do AND everything that everyone else wants us to do. So a big part of leading a more balanced life is to cut down on unnecessary tasks and protect your priorities.

When requests or conflicts are set before you, ask yourself: “Is this going to give me a feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of happiness?”

Years ago, a good friend of mine – “Rita” – wanted my husband and me to meet her new boyfriend. He was “the one” as she put it. So we made dinner plans for the following evening.

But when our two-month-old baby Delanie woke up in the morning, with a fever, I called Rita and apologized, but told her we would have to cancel. I just did not feel right about leaving the baby with a sitter.

Rita was irate. She said I was overreacting, and asked how I could possibly feel that way given that Delanie was our third child.

As I held Delanie though the day and night, I knew I had made the right decision. But I was saddened by Rita’s anger – and her anger lasted for weeks.

Then, about five weeks after the infamous missed dinner, Rita called to say that “the one” had dumped her. This time it was her turn to apologize, saying that now she realized I had made the right decision.

Social decisions are one thing, but work decisions can be more difficult. You must learn that sometimes you have to choose your family, your health, or even your social life over work. And you’ll also have to make some hard decisions to put work first.

For instance, I take my health seriously. A few months ago, a doctor’s appointment conflicted with a last-minute visit from one of the industry’s top marketing minds. The only chance I had to see him was during the time I’d reserved for my appointment. Since I wasn’t sick and the appointment was for a simple check up, I didn’t think twice about rescheduling.

Step Four: Keep a journal.

The only way to make your life better is to understand what you’re doing, what’s working, and what isn’t. And there are far too many things going on in our lives to try to keep it all in our heads.

So keep a journal. Write down what you spend time on – everything from the meetings you attend to how many times you go to the gym.

Keeping a journal will help you see if you are spending your time in the most productive way – and it will make you accountable for your actions. It will help you accomplish your professional and personal goals, and will make you proud of those accomplishments.

Step Five: Understand that you’re not a superhero.

Having a balanced life means being realistic. Realistic about the fact that some things are just not going to get done. And you have to be okay with that.

When my husband and I got married 15 year ago, we both had busy careers. But we still enjoyed spending time decorating and upgrading our home with art and new furniture. After a busy day, we loved coming home to our immaculate sanctuary.

Well… once we had kids, things started looking a lot different. Instead of the beautiful vase I picked up in Mexico on the coffee table – there was a stuffed Elmo.

Soon our Tiffany picture frames were replaced by toy trains. And many days, while we’re making dinner, the kids have all the pots and pans on the floor.

But instead of spending my time cleaning up and trying to make my house look perfect, I would much rather play with the kids, banging on the pots and pans with them and playing with trains.

There are always things out of place in my house – but that is exactly the way it should be. Because when I come home to my family, I absolutely have a feeling of great accomplishment and happiness!

This goes for work, too. You may have a dozen projects on your plate, and only so much time to complete them. Don’t get down on yourself for re-prioritizing one of them so you can spend more time on marketing, or so you can care for your ailing grandmother, or so you can spend an hour at the gym.

Following the other guidelines I’ve recommended – figuring out what kind of balance is right for you, creating boundaries, picking priorities, and knowing what’s working and what isn’t – will help you feel confident that your accomplishments are enough… even if you have more goals you want to achieve.

[Ed. Note. MaryEllen Tribby has created the site,, as the leading website and newsletter for the empowerment of the working moms. Her mission is to supply the tools that can give EVERY working mom the ability to lead a healthy, wealthy, and more balanced/blended lifestyle. To create a community where millions of working moms from all over the world come together in support and celebration of each other.]