4 Rules of a Healthy Work-Life Balance

UPDATED: June 23, 2023
PUBLISHED: August 7, 2017

I have completely failed at retirement. My wife tells me that all of the time. I spent so many years building a life worth living that sometimes it’s hard to sit back and enjoy that life. What’s helped me the most is finding hobbies I enjoy, such as reading and gardening.

Over the years, my work-life balance has ebbed and flowed with the changing tide of my career. But I always try to keep my North Star—my family—in view.

Related: Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Family

Here are some important truths I’ve learned about balance.

1. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

I’m not going to tell a 35-year-old woman how to find work-life balance. Her values, desires and view of the world is so much different from mine. Even her idea of balance will look differently from mine. Figure out what works for you and your life.

My wife and I are a partnership. We work together to find a balance that fits. It’s changed over time as our lives and priorities have changed, but one thing has always remained at the top of the list: Don’t make our children feel like a fifth wheel in our lives.

2. Recognize that there will be times of imbalance.

Becoming great at something—a business, a skill, etc.—takes time, usually lots of it. If you want to be great at something, understand there will be times of imbalance, particularly when you’re young in your career and trying to make a name for yourself. The hardest thing is learning when it’s time to slow down, reassess and rebalance.

3. Hold yourself accountable.

I like to ask myself, What’s the most important thing I should be doing right now? It’s not always career-related. It could be that I haven’t been present with my family even when I am home. But asking myself this question regularly ensures I’m accountable for where I spend my time. Don’t mistake busyness for productivity.

4. Remember what’s important.

What I’m most proud of are my two boys. I attribute their growth to my wife, their mother. I wanted them to know how important they are. I remember racing out of business meetings and jumping on a plane home to Georgia so I didn’t miss their baseball games. There will always be another meeting. There are only a limited number of baseball games.

There will always be another meeting. There are only a limited number of baseball games.

I’m an only child. Honestly, it’s easy for me to be selfish. I didn’t have siblings to consider when I was young. I had to reprioritize my life several times. Just remember: Don’t win the money race at the expense of your family.

Related: 12 Work-Life Balance Tips From a Working Dad

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

John Addison is the Leadership Editor for SUCCESS and the author of Real Leadership: 9 Simple Practices for Leading and Living with Purpose, a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-seller. Renowned for his insight and wisdom on leadership, personal development and success, John is a sought-after speaker and motivator. Read more on his blog, and follow John on Facebook and Twitter.