Can I Do It All?'
By Anne Fisher (Fortune.com 01-22-2003)
If you're struggling to build a career, have a family life, see your friends
now and then, and maybe even get an hour or two to yourself occasionally, you
know it can make you feel like a hamster going round and round, faster and
faster, on one of those little wire wheels.
"More and more, people feel overwhelmed," says Kurt Sandholtz, a
career-development coach in
If the stress is starting to get to you, take heart. Along with three
co-authors, Sandholtz has written a practical guide to leading a healthier,
happier life by getting that killer schedule of yours under control. Called Beyond
Juggling: Rebalancing Your Busy Life (Berrett Koehler, $16.95, available at www.beyondjuggling.com),
the book describes five ways to find more time for the people and things you
love, including yourself.
"Often, people think, 'To get real balance, I'd have to radically change
my life.' And that's not practical for many of us. But all you really need to do
is make incremental change," says Sandholtz. "Even making two or three
relatively small changes, and freeing up a few extra hours a week, can make a
So where do you start? First, Sandholtz recommends keeping a detailed diary
for a couple of days, just to see where your time is really going. Then look at
it and ask yourself which activities you could cut out, or delegate to someone
else. (A small but typical example: Did you really have to spend half an hour
yesterday picking up dry cleaning? Can you find a dry cleaner who delivers?)
At the same time, decide which area of your life--work, family, friendships,
or self-care--most sorely needs more attention than it's getting.
"From dads, we most often hear it's time with the kids that's
lacking," says Sandholtz. "From women, it's usually self-care--an hour
or two here or there to exercise, get a facial, read, or just think."
Once you have a clear idea of what you're spending time on now, and where you
want to redirect some of that time, you can choose a tactic that will help you
Here are five practical strategies that can help you devote more time to the
pursuits you truly value:
1. Alternating. This technique involves immersing yourself completely in work
for a specified period, and then not working at all for a while--rather like a
freelance writer who works feverishly on a book project for a year and then
takes three months off. If arranging a sabbatical isn't realistic, at least be
sure to go on regular vacations. Too many people neglect to take these vital
breaks, and ultimately become less productive.
"If you use your vacation time to catch up on chores--or worse yet,
don't take a vacation at all--you're not getting that essential recharging that
relaxing time off can give you," says Sandholtz.
2. Outsourcing. Identify activities you're willing to let someone else take
over. For example, hire a housecleaning service instead of doing all the mopping
and dusting yourself. Rather than do your taxes yourself this April, hire an
accountant. At work, try to find a few tasks you've been tackling yourself that
really could be delegated--it could gain you a few extra hours each week for
3. Bundling. This tactic can help you get more mileage out of the same number
of hours. Wish you had more time to hang out with your friends? Never get the
chance to go to the gym enough? You can fit both friendship and exercise into
your schedule by power-walking with a friend. Sick of living on takeout? Get
together with a couple of pals on Sunday evenings and cook meals that can be
stashed in the freezer for the coming week.
4. Techflexing. As the name suggests, this strategy allows you to make use of
technology, including a home office, to work more flexible hours (if you have
the kind of job that permits it). If a pager or a broadband connection would
make it easier for you to take a few hours off in the middle of a workday on
occasion, go ahead and make the investment (or better yet, see if your employer
will reimburse you).
5. Simplifying. Is earning more and owning more always better? Not
necessarily--especially when you can't find time for the things you really
value. Free yourself up by figuring out what you can live without. "You may
make small sacrifices, such as cancelling magazine subscriptions," the
Or, you could make a bigger sacrifice, such as taking a voluntary pay cut in
exchange for reducing your hours.
None of these solutions is one-size-fits-all, as Sandholtz is the first to
admit. And for most people, the best
strategy of all might be to borrow a bit from all five, as Sandholtz does
himself. He and his wife have six kids, but he still manages to coach peewee
soccer, volunteer at his church, help out at home so his wife can train for 10K
races, and hold down a job that requires lots of travel.
"Work-life balance isn't an impossible dream," he says.