Why You Should Ditch the “Work-Life Balance” Model

“If work-life balance was my goal, I would fail on a daily basis,” said Katy Varney—a partner at one of the top PR agencies in Nashville, TN.

Here’s a successful woman at the height of her career who’s been raising a family for 18+ years and still hasn’t been able to figure out this whole “work-life balance” thing. Has she not implemented the latest seven “life-changing tips to achieve work-life balance” spelled out in every copy of Oprah Magazine? What gives? If she can’t find some semblance of balance, what hope does that leave for the rest of us?

As you scramble to juggle your increasingly long list of to-do’s, battle through daily stressors, and work on your time-consuming side business, you’re probably left wondering if there’s a better way to “have it all” when it comes to the living the life of your dream.

When you have a day job and a side business and you’re attempting to have a “real life” somewhere in the middle of all that, your work-life ratio is more like 90% work and 10% life.

Unlike your average employee counterparts, your day doesn’t start at 9am and end at 5pm. It’s more likely to start at 5am and end at 9pm (if you’re lucky). As a business owner, you don’t have the luxury of clocking out and leaving work behind—there’s always more work to do on your side business every moment you’re not on company time.

No matter how you slice it, it will become increasingly obvious that you’re coming up short on the “life” end of the work-life spectrum as you dive deeper into your entrepreneurial endeavors. (If you have any doubt of this, your significant other will be happy to remind you.)

Yet, it’s time to cut through all the “work-life balance” hype perpetuated by every trendy women’s magazine and give a big middle finger to the whole concept.


“Work-life balance” is a flawed life model. It’s an unattainable ideal.


Because the word “balance” indicates that both sides of the equation should be equal—like a level seesaw with “work” sitting nicely on one side and “life” on the other. Unfortunately, we’re not living in Sir Thomas More’s Utopian society, are we?

The problem is that this concept doesn’t leave room for the notion that many of your tasks and priorities are more heavily weighted than others—and deserve more time and attention. Plus, when you’re constantly striving for—and falling short of—an unattainable ideal (all the while thinking it’s the “norm”), you’ll end up stressed out, burnt out, and feeling like a massive failure.

Give yourself permission right now to chuck this hyped-up “work-life balance” concept and adopt a more useful tool as you go forward with your business: COMPARTMENTALIZATION.

Compartmentalizing is maximizing the space you’re in when you’re in it.

Katy Varney said, “I am late every single day coming to work because I love being at home and I have to tear myself away from my home every morning. And I am late everything single day getting home because I love being at the office and I have to tear myself away. I think the answer is maximizing the space that you’re in when you’re in it. There won’t be a balance, but you’ll end up feeling good and happy at the end of the day. And [you’ll] learn how to enjoy and thrive in that tension.”

Compartmentalization is about living in a state of being where your mental attention is fully engaged in the present moment.

That means when you’re working on your side business, be 100% focused on your business—don’t be thinking about the kid’s birthday party next week, the laundry you have to do, or how frustrated you are with your day job.

When you’re at home, be 100% present with your family, your partner or yourself—don’t bring the workday home with you by complaining about your job, constantly checking email, or Twittering the entire evening.

When you’re at your job, be 100% engaged at work. Don’t fret that your side business might fall apart if you don’t think about it for a few hours.

In the end, there will never be a “balance”, but you will find yourself happier, more satisfied with your life, and more in control than you’ve ever been. You will be able to work with ease and get more done towards your long-term goals than you ever have before.

To ditch “work-life balance” and effectively practice compartmentalization, here are a few killer time management secrets that will help you stay on track…

#1: Work in Short Intervals

If you’re currently working a day job, you’re used to having an 8-hour chunk of uninterrupted time to get work done. With your side business, there is no such block of time. And if for some reason you’re still waiting for a colossal chunk of time to magically appear in your 5-9 schedule so you can finally make headway on your business, the waiting stops now.

As a busy entrepreneur, you have to learn how work in short intervals. You’ll probably never have an 8-hour block of time to work on your business, but you might have eight 1-hour blocks during the week. When you learn to utilize these shorter blocks of time, you’ll be able to maximize your results.

Start by breaking down your to-do list into smaller quarter-hour to one-hour tasks. Beside each task, write down the estimated time required to complete it (e.g. 15 mins, 30 mins, 45 mins, 1 hr).

Then later, when you find yourself with a few minutes of uninterrupted free time, instead of wasting it surfing on the Internet, look at your to-do list, select a task that takes that specific amount of time and knock it out with 100% focus right then and there.

#2: Sacrifice the Unimportant Stuff

Time is the #1 non-renewable resource on this planet, yet it’s the one that’s wasted the most. You can’t buy it, trade for it, or create it. But you can reinstate your claim on the time that’s rightfully yours.

To do this, you have to sacrifice the trivial time-wasters and unimportant luxuries in your life. For instance, you might have to…

  • Get up earlier in the morning
  • Skip your morning Starbucks ritual
  • Say “no” to lunch with your co-workers
  • Stop checking social media all the time
  • Stop surfing the Internet during your breaks
  • Skip going out with friends every week


Compartmentalization is about prioritizing and engaging in the important tasks in your life—not the trivial time-wasters that are distracting you and eating away your valuable time.

By just cutting out a few inane time-wasters from your daily life, you could gain a few more precious hours to work on your business per day that you weren’t previously utilizing. Those few hours could be the difference between you being able to grow your business to the point where you can quit your day job this year or having to wait for five or ten years before taking the plunge.

What are you willing to sacrifice right now to turn your entrepreneurial dream into a reality?

#3: Merge Your Business and Your Life

The original idea for work-life balance came from author and journalist, Paul Krassner. In the 1960’s, Krassner remarked in Sixties Radicals; Then and Now that, “One definition of happiness is having as little separation between your work and play as possible. So if I retired, I would retire to what I’m doing now anyway. If I were independently wealthy, I don’t think anything would change in my life.”

Guess what? He’s not talking about a balancing act here with “work” on one side of the seesaw and “life” on the other. That rubbish was introduced later on in the late 70’s probably to fill in the giant emotional void that was felt by employees who were pawns in the corporate game.

What he does mean is that true happiness is doing work that you love. Plain and simple. This is why so many entrepreneurs can be classified as workaholics—they absolutely love what they do, so they spend all their time doing it. Again, there’s no “balance”, but there’s an immense amount of satisfactions.

Merely spending 50% of your time working and 50% enjoying your personal life is not the secret to happiness. Instead, long-term fulfillment comes from being mentally present and fully engaged in activities you enjoy—100% engaged in work, 100% engaged in personal time, 100% engaged with your family, 100% engaged with your friends, and 100% engaged with your business—no matter how much physical time you spend on each.

The ability to compartmentalize, prioritize and focus is a more successful way to find “balance” amongst the chaos than grasping for that perfect state of work-life equilibrium day after day. And if the line between your business and your life gets blurred somewhere along the way because you love it so much, roll with it. You’ve successfully discovered the definition of happiness.

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Resources for Solo Business Owners - 5 years ago

Always an interesting conversation- work/life balance versus work/life blend!

Also, wanted to let you know that we included you on our list of top podcasts for solopreneurs– thanks for all you do!

Balance is Bullshit with Laurel Staples | The Mindful Creator - 4 years ago

[…] Why You Should Ditch the Work-Life Balance model – Laurel Staples Let’s make a “to-don’t list” – Brett Henley How a Good Life Builds a (Better Than) Great Company : The Zen of Jonathan Fields – Terry St. Marie (Jonathan talks about the vitality, connection, contribution buckets I mention in my interview w/ Laurel). […]

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