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by Vault Careers | November 14, 2011


by Kristine Schoonmaker, MyConsultingLife.Com

The greatest truth I’ve learned when it comes to work life balance is that work will take and take and take until you say stop. And, the only way to truly feel you have good work-life balance is to find your unique sweet spot of harmony between what you give to yourself and what you give to others. A while back, I stumbled across an article that begged the question, “Are you giving beyond your means?” The article began with a typical email that described a husband and wife who were having trouble making it from check to check because they were bailing out their 4 adult children financially. It seems obvious that the couple were giving beyond their means.

The Work-Life BalanceWith financial matters, the line is black and white. But what about giving in areas outside of the financial realm, especially when it comes to work? Consider your average “overachiever” for a minute. She does everything, is everywhere for her boss, her team, her clients…oh yeah, and probably her family and community too. But does she always have sufficient energy? Does she ever have a short fuse? Does she ever get burned out? If so, she is likely giving more than she can afford as well. Below are 3 steps to help you find the right balance for what you give to yourself and what you give to work.

Step 1: Build your reserves so you HAVE something to give to others

It’s fairly easy to say no if you don’t have money to give, but when we’re asked to give of our time, energy, skills, we often feel obligated – even if it means giving more than we can afford. Would you be more able to give if you first built up our personal “reserves” – lots of them – in more areas than just money?

  • Are your relationships a source of support or do they bring you down?
  • What is your financial situation? Is it a source of stress or comfort?
  • Does your health regiment give you loads of energy or are you always tired?
  • Is your physical environment creative and invigorating or a stress?

For all of the “guilty givers” out there (myself included), building reserves represents an act of self-care or preservation, not selfishness. When you have reserves, others will benefit from you having more to give – not just yourself. You can do this in small steps, even if it’s just starting with 5 minutes of fresh air mid-day or foregoing your Starbucks one day a week. Determine what your reserve levels need to be for you to be your best and keep working towards it.

Step 2: Design your extra-cirriculars around your gifts, passions and goals

Socially we talk about “giving” to others due to our wonderful sense of responsibility for the greater good. At work, there can also be endless opportunities to “give” more in the form of extra-curriculars. We’re encouraged, sometimes even pressured, to give in specific ways. Frequently, we go along because we feel we “should” or we “have to.” But there are many ways to give. Turn the tables for a minute. Consider what has been given to you – those special little gifts that make you unique. Consider what types of things you actually enjoy doing. Consider what things will help you reach your personal or career goals. How might you use those when you “give” to others? It doesn’t always have to be big things either, like proposal work after hours or planning a huge offsite meeting. Here are a few simply ones that don’t always involve a huge time commitment and can still score major credit when it comes to job performance:

  • Share your creativity with someone struggling with an assignment
  • Really listen to what people on your team or your client wants – and fight for it
  • Make a meaningful introduction
  • Share an opportunity or idea for new business
  • Acknowledge someone by genuinely thanking them or recognizing them for something
  • Share a tip, resource or shortcut to make someone’s life easier
  • Mentor someone junior to you

Step 3: Determine the “balance” that’s right for you

Are you ENJOYING the extras you have signed yourself up for? Or do you sometimes feel resentful? If you experience ANY negative emotion it’s probably a clue that you need to re-evaluate how and how much you give.

Think of your giving in terms of dollars and cents. Consider all your reserve areas and create a personal “giving budget” up front. Once you’ve established what you can give, identify the ways to give that bring you nothing but satisfaction and don’t “overspend.” Now, saying no can be hard. However, if you establish a plan up front, you will have criteria to help you know where to say no and where to say yes. You can monitor yourself also by just listening to yourself. If you hear yourself saying “should” – saying it or even just thinking it – it’s probably a warning that you are in danger of giving outside of your budget.

By building your reserves, giving in the ways you love and maintaining proper balance for you, you’ll be more likely to keep it up!

Kristine Schoonmaker is The Career & Lifestyle Coach for Consultants and founder of Her bi-weekly ezine Accelerate offers practical insider advice and quick tips from a former consulting exec to help YOU take greater control of your career and stay engaged in your personal life from the road. If you’re ready to have it all – an amazing career in consulting without giving up the lifestyle, relationships and experiences you want, get your FREE subscription now at


Filed Under: Workplace Issues