I seem to post an inordinate number of interviews with Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Well, what can I say? She's brilliant, hardworking, has a career that many envy, has gathered some considerable insight along the way and has a simple and yet articulate way of expressing them.
So, without apologies, here is another one. This is an interview on the Inc website, where she talks about, among many things, building your career (Be Ambitious, Start out with Big Dreams), making healthy life choices as a career woman (Marry a man who supports your goals in both words and deeds) and recognising that there is no such thing as work-life balance.
Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook COO
It was the reference to having a life outside of work - Sheryl Sandberg Leaves Work at 5:30. Why Can't You? - that first caught my attention, to be honest. She talks about how she struggled to do it all when she first became a mother - starting her work day early so that her colleagues could see her 5.30am emails and staying-up late, again so they could see her emails sent past their bedtimes. As she became more confident, she was boldly able to pick up her bag and leave the office at 5.30pm.
This is such an important thing for us to remember, as many of us struggle to progress in our careers and build business empires, that we need a healthy amount of rest and relaxation too. And the truth is very few of us enjoy enough recreation.
There are many debates about whether work-life balance actually exists or whether it is another unattainable goal that we have added to our ever increasing To Do list. I read a wonderful article in Fast Company magazine (Balance is Bunk! by Keith H. Hammonds) about how balance exists over time and not in the every day existence. This means that I might not have a perfectly equitable distribution of my hours between work and play, as different life phases will require varying levels of time and commitment for me. So, for instance, as a mother of a new-born, work will probably need to take a back seat for a while, but then as my child grows older and becomes more independent, I can devote more of my hours to work. Similarly, my business might be undergoing a tough period and thus demand more of my time for some months or a year or two. At another point, both children and business might need me less giving me more free time.
This idea of balance over a lifetime, rather than each day, resonated so strongly with me because my work can be very demanding and I am often very busy. If I was going to look at my work-life balance within the conventional paradigm, I would be failing big-time on a daily basis.