101: Carving Out Some Work-Life Balance

101: Carving Out Some Work-Life Balance

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Carving Out Some Work-Life Balance

By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.

~Robert Frost

There are two main themes running through this book: 1) Make sure you take the time to thrive every day; and 2) It’s your time to thrive, so if you need to change your job, your home, your life, get to it.

And then, even if you are doing something you love, it shouldn’t be all that you do. That’s a lesson I have had to learn in my own job at Chicken Soup for the Soul. My husband and I had just become empty nesters when we took on the challenge of running this amazing company. We had been working from home — he on various business ventures, and I on several corporate board memberships — so when the last child went off to college it should have been our time to scale back our workloads, do some traveling, and enjoy ourselves.

But no. Crazy us. We had learned earlier that year that Chicken Soup for the Soul was for sale by its founders, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and his ex-wife Patty Hansen. We loved everything that Chicken Soup for the Soul stood for and we thought that we could take the company to the next level, bringing the books back to their old level of popularity and relevance, and expanding into additional areas where we could add value to people’s lives.

We and our business partners, mostly friends and family members, became the proud new owners of Chicken Soup for the Soul. I had read 100 of the old Chicken Soup for the Soul books in preparation for the acquisition, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do as author, editor-in-chief and publisher when we took over. It was like Chicken Soup for the Soul had been inside me all along waiting to come out.

Thus, at ages fifty-five and fifty, respectively, my husband and I returned to the world of full-time work, just when we should have been planning our exit strategy! He became CEO and I became Publisher. It has been non-stop excitement ever since. The first “excitement” was that we managed to time our purchase perfectly for the start of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, one that led to Borders going bankrupt, independent bookstores closing, and consumers scaling back on discretionary purchases. But we survived that, managing to redesign our books and increase our sales and have a number of bestsellers among the 120 new titles that we have published since mid-2008. My husband, as CEO, has put together a team in the non-book part of our business that has updated our popular pet food products, launched a line of food for people, and started a TV and movie production business.

What we hadn’t expected was that this would become an all-consuming endeavor and that we would work virtually every day. I’m writing this on a Saturday night at ten o’clock, for example. We love what we do, but we have to make some boundaries so that work doesn’t take over absolutely everything.

There is a saying that in order to be happy you should return to what you loved doing when you were ten years old. When I was ten I loved to walk in the acres of woods behind our house, write stories just for fun, and read books. And now I have a job where I read and write every day, I go for long walks in the nature preserve near my house, and I still squeeze in a little time reading books that I did not have to edit. So despite the fact that I am working seven days a week and am constantly in crisis mode, I am truly doing what I have always loved doing.

My husband and I have to be particularly careful that we don’t let work take over every aspect of our lives. Here’s how we do it. If you saw any of the Harry Potter movies or read the books, you’ll remember that the evil wizard Voldemort was so terrifying that everyone but the equally powerful wizard Harry Potter called him “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

So through some bizarre husband/wife shared brainwaves, we both decided that work, i.e., Chicken Soup for the Soul, would be “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Discussed,” a bit like Voldemort. When either of us is sick of talking about work at home, we can “declare Voldemort,” as we term it, and the other person is not allowed to talk about work at all. This usually happens on Friday nights and “Voldemort” remains in effect until Monday morning.

My husband is not even allowed to instant-message or text me a question about work when Voldemort is in effect, because texting is too much like talking. We can be sitting right next to each other at the kitchen table, working on our computers, but we have to e-mail each other our questions.

In addition to Voldemort, we have other little traditions that we use to take back ownership of at least a bit of our lives. On Sundays, we are adamant that we have a big fancy breakfast together, usually involving something with maple syrup, and we call those Sinful Sundays. Sinful Sunday is mandatory every week!

And we absolutely have to be on vacation for our wedding anniversary every November, no exceptions allowed. It doesn’t matter what is happening in the business — this vacation is never cancelled or modified. We’ve gone to the Caribbean, Dubai, Hawaii, and even when we’ve taken a shorter trip, we have to be on vacation on our anniversary.

That’s “couple time.” Then there’s “me time.” No matter how tired I am, or how late I go to bed, I take ten or fifteen minutes every night to read a book that I have not edited.

Finally, and most importantly, there are the children, all grown, but still expecting full attention the rare times they seek it. I drop everything when one of them calls or texts. Work isn’t taking that away from me, ever.

I may work seven days a week, but by carving out a few mandatory R&R opportunities that I can count on, it all works. I don’t resent my job; I don’t feel overwhelmed; and I can move from task to task knowing that my me time, my couple time, my kid time, and my anniversary trip WILL happen. They are guaranteed and inviolate. Those bits of time, those “carve outs” that I can count on, create the work-life balance that keeps me going.

~Amy Newmark

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners