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January 04, 2016 Blog 3 min read
One key to work-life balance is intentionality. We have more control over achieving balance than we think. Here are some ideas for participating in more major moments, at home and at work.

Outdoor dinner with friends and family at night in backyard. string lights frame the shot and add light to the table  

A number of years ago, when I first joined Plante Moran’s management team, we had a big meeting scheduled. I felt it was awfully important to present, but it also happened to coincide with the day my son was leaving for his first day of college. A few days prior to the meeting, Managing Partner Bill Hermann stopped by my office.

“Friday’s moving day for your son, right?” (How he knew that, I’ll never know.)
“It is,” I said, “but don’t worry — I’ll still be at the meeting.”
“How about this,” said Bill. “We’ll put you on the agenda first to cover the items that are critical, and you’ll be out of here by 8 a.m. It’s an important day for you to have with your son.”

The perfect work-life balance is a bit like a thermostat; it can be a little too warm or too cold. 

We talk a lot about work-life balance at Plante Moran, and one of the things we talk about is intentionality. But it’s intentional in two ways — intentional on the part of staff to own their balance, and intentional on the part of managers to encourage it. I was blown away when Bill said that to me. It not only engendered a sense of loyalty but also set a great example for me and others to follow.

The perfect work-life balance is a bit like a thermostat; it can be a little too warm or too cold. And it’s aspirational in nature — something we’re always trying to achieve but rarely perfect. But we have a lot more control over our balance than we give ourselves credit for.

As we begin 2016, I thought I’d share a few balance tips I’ve accumulated over the years:

  • Balance is different for everybody. I always start work early because that’s when I’m at my best. When my kids were young, my goal was to get home as soon as I could to be a part of their evening routines. On the other hand, I know some staff who come to work later and work well into the evening. Some even have intramural sporting events late at night (as late as 1 a.m.!). That would never work for me, but it works for them.
  • Balance is a movie, not a snapshot. There will be days and weeks where work dominates, and there will days and weeks where personal priorities are more of a focus. The goal with balance is to be able to look back over a significant period of time, a month or a year, and be able to say, “I feel good; I feel balanced.”
  • My mentor, Ken Kunkel, used to say “There will be peaks and valleys. Take advantage of your valleys.” For instance, if you’re a tax accountant at Plante Moran between mid-January and April 15, it’s going to be busy. Recognize that although these peak busy times are often out of our control, we can absolutely control and take advantage of the downtimes.
  • It’s one thing to talk about balance; it’s another to model it. Seeing some of my mentors live their balance encouraged me to live mine. So when the opportunity to coach my kids’ basketball teams came about (practices four nights a week and games on weekends), I was happy to grab it. I was equally happy to share with younger staff members that this was part of how I achieved my balance. Balance is not something to be ashamed of but rather something to be celebrated and shared.
  • Plan for balance. This is the perfect time of year to plan your PTO. Look at the calendar year stretched out before you, and get those weeks and days of vacation planned out. It not only ensures that you’ll take time off, but it also often gives you and your loved ones something to look forward to. Part of the fun of a vacation is the anticipation.

Years ago, I was bemoaning to Joe Wentrack, my supervisor, that I wished I could go someplace on one of my kids’ school breaks. “Why can’t you?” he asked. “Because it’s a busy time of the year for me,” I replied. He thought for a moment, and then he said, “Well, if you’re not organized enough to do it, then that’s your fault.”

And he was right. So the following year I got everything in order, and then I took my family on a vacation during that break. A little intentionality goes a long way.

So how about you? What’s your best work-life balance tip? And do you have your PTO planned out for 2016?