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The Ultimate Balance: How Top Execs Juggle Work, Family

Maintaining work/life balance is hard, especially when you're in a leadership position. But with some careful planning, it is possible.
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Our VP of platform management, Josh, was the first full-time employee at my email marketing company, VerticalResponse. Back in 2001, we were completely immersed in the tech startup mode, with a do-whatever-it-takes attitude when it came to work. Weekends, late nights--there were plenty of those, and then some more.

Fast-forward 13 years, and Josh is now married with three young kids. It's been awesome seeing him become an amazing dad and husband, but I know that it wasn't always easy, and he has struggled to break some bad habits.

VerticalResponse has "grown up" over the years, too. Many of our execs and directors have kids now, so work-life balance is very important to them. How do they juggle successful, demanding careers with young families? I talked to some parents on my team, and here are a few takeaways:

1. Set boundaries.

One of our marketing directors makes a point to leave the office by 5 p.m. so she can pick up her daughter from elementary school and the family can cook dinner together. She'll often come into the office early in the morning or do some work after her daughter is asleep, but from 5 p.m. to bedtime, it's family time only.

For David, our SVP of product and marketing, who has two children, both work and family life ebb and flow throughout the year, depending on his kids' activities and things like quarter-end responsibilities and project milestones at work. "The most important thing I can do is set expectations--on both fronts--when I know crunch time is coming!" he said.

When you're taking time off to be with your family, spend it with your family! If you're sending work emails every 10 minutes, your colleagues are going to assume that you're OK with doing work while on vacation. News flash: That's not a vacation, IMHO. Tell them you'll be checking emailsonly during a certain part of the day (if that's necessary), and then make yourself stick to it. You, your team, your spouse or partner, and your kids will all be better off knowing what to expect.

Having boundaries is incredibly helpful for managing time and expectations. Make sure that your team is clear about these boundaries and can work around them, and, of course, that you're able to reliably meet your responsibilities.

2. Delegate, then let go.

One of the hardest things about leading a team is trusting that others will do a good (if not better) job at certain things, especially if it's a project you own. But you can't do it all, and the belief that you can will quickly lead you to burn out. When you a have a family, it's even more important to trust in your team and let your employees grab the reins.

A VP here said it took him a long time to learn this all-important skill. But once he did, he was able to let go and truly enjoy his time off with his kids and family.

3. Build a support network.

As the saying (or book title) goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." A running theme around the parents at VerticalResponse is the importance of having a great relationship with whoever participates in bringing up the kids--whether it's your partner, spouse, parents, in-laws, siblings, nanny, daycare provider, or someone else.

Inevitably, there will be a long night, a meeting that runs late, out-of-town travel. Knowing that you can rely on others to care for the family when you're away or when something unexpected pops up makes life a lot less stressful and lets you focus on the work at hand.

4. Outsource errands.

Being in the San Francisco Bay Area, we're lucky to have so many convenient tech-driven, app-driven services at our disposal--and many parents at my company are regular customers. Businesses like TaskRabbit, Google Shopping Express, Amazon Fresh, Seamless, Munchery (my personal fave!) and more make it easy to run errands--and order dinner--without leaving your house, letting you spend more time with the fam.

Yes, it will cost more money. But sometimes it might be worth a few extra bucks to get groceries delivered to your door versus wasting precious family time at the supermarket with hungry, cranky kids in tow.

Do you have any tips on how to balance work, life, and family? I'm sure others would love to know; please share in the comments.

If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free VR Buzz and check out the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

Last updated: Aug 12, 2014




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