How I (Sort of) Con­quered My Work-Life Im­bal­ance

The IRS will give you an ex­ten­sion. For ev­ery­thing else, try these guide­lines

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with the fact that this state of di­sheveled af­fairs may be semi-per­ma­nent, and that I had bet­ter fig­ure out a way to deal with it—or else ac­cept the idea that I just won’t.

This, of course, is the clas­sic dilemma of work­life bal­ance. And yeah, I read plenty of warn­ings be­fore­hand about how dif­fi­cult it would be to man­age reg­u­lar life while also man­ag­ing the mil­lion and one de­tails that come with launch­ing a com­pany. But there’s noth­ing like land­ing in the slop with both shoes to help you truly rec­og­nize what you’ve stepped into.

For me, the work-life strug­gle hasn’t been as sim­ple as spend­ing too much time at the of­fice or the clas­sic worry about ne­glect­ing my fam­ily. I’ve al­ways made it a pri­or­ity to be at home for din­ner most nights, and most nights I am. Rather, it’s been more of a mud­dling through, with some hazy sense that I’ve lost my to- do list along the way. Wak­ing up at 4 a.m. and re­al­iz­ing that I for­got to reg­is­ter my kids for sum­mer camp is not the way to thrive.

So, how to re­gain some sense of bal­ance? I’ve adopted three ba­sic strate­gies, prin­ci­ples that help me keep things in per­spec­tive and get things done.

First, I share my work at home. For years, I kept my work at work, spar­ing my spouse the minu­tiae of daily of­fice life. No more. Now I share ev­ery­thing: the small tri­umphs, the petty griev­ances, the strate­gic op­por­tu­ni­ties. It helps her un­der­stand what all the fuss is about, and she’s been gen­er­ous and in­sight­ful about the chal­lenges. It’s one of the best things I’ve done.

Sec­ond, I make time to sweat the small stuff. Early on in startup life, I re­al­ized the only way to get rou­tine ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks off my plate was to set aside Mon­days as the one day to take care of them. Now I do the same with the life side of the ledger. Each morn­ing, I take an hour be­fore work to wres­tle with mun­dane chores like bills and taxes; Satur­day morn­ings I re­serve for per­sonal er­rands and lo­gis­tics. It’s not the most fun way to start the week­end, but carv­ing out this time makes it pos­si­ble to get more done.

And fi­nally, I’m mak­ing peace with the new re­al­ity. Three years in, it’s ap­par­ent to me that this prob­lem isn’t go­ing away. Like so many other en­trepreneurs, I’m go­ing to con­tend with too many de­mands and too lit­tle time, at the of­fice and at home. Some things are go­ing to slip— and that’s OK. At least that’s what I tell my­self. I also tell my­self that it’s work­ing.

Yes, I know, these aren’t nec­es­sar­ily prac­ti­cal, plug-and-play so­lu­tions that you can ap­ply to your sit­u­a­tion; they’re more like cop­ing mech­a­nisms. But as any en­tre­pre­neur knows, cop­ing may be the most im­por­tant skill you can de­velop. FEW YEARS INTO A STARTUP, one thing I’ve learned: Run­ning a new com­pany is a great way to push aside all those unim­por­tant dis­trac­tions in your life. You know, like pay­ing in­come taxes.

Whoops. For years, I was a scrupu­lous April 15 filer, but ever since I co-founded Io­dine, my digital health com­pany, that IRS dead­line has breezed by like a high­way mile marker, along with so many other pre­vi­ous pri­or­i­ties. Thank god, and Un­cle Sam, for ex­ten­sions. Pre-startup, I used to hit the gym, pay bills promptly, keep the house in good re­pair. Post-startup, those things seem like ro­man­tic in­dul­gences. Hell, even chang­ing a light bulb seems out of the ques­tion these days. By my count, there are four or more that are burned out around my house. (At least I’m con­serv­ing elec­tric­ity.)

So far, I’ve as­sured my­self, and my spouse, that this is just a phase, part of the short-term grow­ing pains of startup life. But now, two— erp, bet­ter make that three—years in, I’m start­ing to reckon

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