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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at

What if we made work less important?

Categories: Uncategorized, balance


We spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to get more things done.  At least, I do.

I tell myself that if I can get what has to be done taken care of more quickly, I’ll have more time to do what I want.  That makes perfectly good sense, in theory.

Except that what I really mean is that I have to get work done before I can spend time with my kids and husband.  I have to get emails answered before I can go to the gym.  I have to turn in all of my projects before I can spend some time in prayer.

Work-life balance often means finding ways to fit life in around the work.

Something about that seems off to me.

I was thinking about this earlier this week and remembered a time when my husband was struggling with a “work-life balance”.  The kids and I had become the life that got squeezed into the left over space around work.

His job was a necessity.

I was an “if you have room” luxury.

It sounds nice to describe myself as a luxury, but it feels crappy to not be a necessity in your husband’s life.  I don’t mean to point the finger at my husband because a) he’s worked really hard to change his behaviors to match his priorities and b) he’s certainly not the only one (in this family) to fall into that trap in the first place.  I, too, have put husband, kids, health, and a myriad of other priorities in line behind work.

What if we made work less important?

Instead of focusing on all the ways we can get more done, what if we focused on training ourselves to be OK with not getting everything done?  What if we made “getting more done at work” secondary to our families?

There is an old demonstration that’s often done by productivity and self-help speakers.  A participant is presented with 4 jars of equal size: an empty one, a jar 3/4 full of large rocks, a jar 3/4 full of pebbles, and a jar 3/4 full of sand.  The participant is asked to get all the contents from all the jars into the one empty jar.

How do they do it?

They put the big rocks in first.  Next they put in the pebbles, which naturally fill in the space around the big rocks.  Finally, they pour in the sand to fill the remaining spaces.  The lesson is that the best way to “get it all done” is to put the big rocks - the most important things - into your schedule first, and then fill in the extra time with the less important things.

I wonder what the consequences would be if we made our family and other personal priorities the big rocks.  I wonder if we would find that our employers actually needed much less from us than what we have been giving.  I wonder if we’d see a difference in our personal relationships if we put our productivity efforts there.

I wonder if this is something I could actually do.

Could you?

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7 comments so far...

  • I try my best to do this. It doesn’t always work, but usually it does. I recently asked for a deadline extension on a project because it was going to cut into my down time and I knew I would be so “off” if I allowed that. I offered to submit work in batches so it wouldn’t screw up the editor’s schedule. I got the extra time and kept my sanity.

    Megan  |  February 9th, 2011 at 11:33 am

  • I guess it depends on the company you work for. In my case, it’s a small partnership and we make commitments up front to do stuff over time. It’s not like I can say “I’m only going to meet 80% of my commitments this year.” If I did that, then eventually I’d have plenty of free time but my company would no longer exist. Yes, you can try not to take on too much in the first place, but it’s not always easy to predict how heavy your workload is going to be next September. And it might not be possible to hire someone off the street to pick up the slack.

    I do prioritize personal things that are “really important.” It’s not like all of work comes before all of family/personal stuff. It’s more of a hand-over-hand game - the biggest emergency / most important thing comes first - maybe it’s work, maybe it’s my kid’s health issue, depending on the circs. Same for the second priority, etc. Ultimately things pretty much get done.

    SKL  |  February 9th, 2011 at 11:48 am

  • My biggest problem with “fitting it all in” is my commute. I ride the train for forty-minutes every morning and every evening. If the kids have a doctors appointment that cannot be scheduled on a Saturday, it means taking a full day off of work or not getting in until 1:00 or so because the trains don’t run on my schedule, obviously, and the non-rush hour train ride is a little over an hour.

    BUT I do have a lot of freedom as to what I do while I’m on the clock, as long as I am physically in the office. So that’s when I do my facebooking, my blogging, pay bills, make personal calls, etc. This frees up a lot of time, without putting bad thoughts of no “me” time to connect with friends or guilt thoughts when I check my email instead of reading a book with my kids.

    I’m trying to cut back my multi-tasking because I wind up doing it all half-assed instead of doing each thing the “right” way.

    I won’t have to worry about this for too much longer (hopefully) because I plan on quitting my job sometime soon-ish.

    Sheila  |  February 9th, 2011 at 11:54 am

  • I think we, as working Mothers are continually pulled in so many different directions, being made to feel each is at, or should be at the top of the list. It’s easy to get wrapped up in that and end up making ourselves crazy. I think the success of work-life balance should be judged on a day to day basis as each day brings new things on our plate. Trying to go any farther than that may set ourselves up for disappointment, guilt and frustration. Small successes, I think, bring the most reward.

    Patty  |  February 9th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

  • I think it very much depends on your type of job. If you’re in a punch the clock kind of job, and have to be in your seat from 8 to 5, you can’t prioritize that 8 to 5 time much better than you already do — although I think Sheila hits on something, ‘prioritizing’ personal stuff a little bit during that time. I do the same - emails w/my mom, sister, a bit of me-time (blogs, FB), and scheduling some of my kids’ activities.

    I can and do definitely prioritize family during non-office hours. I’m lucky to have a job that I can mostly leave at the office! If I didn’t… life would be a lot different and more stressful.

    el-e-e  |  February 10th, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  • I agree that for me it has to come day to day. I also get to work a little early and pay my bills from there and facebook on my downtime or unimportant calls. I get off at 4:30 and dont live far from work. However, its still really hard to get things in because my husband commutes far and gets home late. I am in sales and 90% of the people in my position work many nights and weekends. However, last year, I decided that unless I was sure that I was going to get a deal from that night or weekend showing, I wasn’t going to do it because this is my time with my family. So, I think last year I maybe worked late a handful of times and maybe 1-2 weekend days - the whole year. To my surprise, I had my best year yet and kicked butt - with way less work during off hours.

    Oceans Mom  |  February 14th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

  • I wish to not have a rigid schedule. My last job didn’t have one and I REALLY miss that with this one. That alone, would help with the prioritization/balance of work/family.

    Mich  |  February 15th, 2011 at 3:58 pm