Work-life balance may be vital to a happy life, but increasingly, successful women entrepreneurs suggest it's pure fiction--and if anything, you're better off just admitting the fallacy now.

At Martha Stewart Living's "American Made" conference over the weekend, men and (mostly) women pulled up a seat to hear from such famed businesswomen as Shark Tank judge Barbara Corcoran, the former CEO of advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather Charlotte Beers and, of course, the media mogul herself. While the discussion ranged from social media strategies to startup basics, the topic that stood out most to this observer was about work-life balance.

The consensus? It doesn't exist.

To hear Corcoran discuss it, making time for your personal life while you're pedal to the metal at work would seem downright apocryphal. "I gave up on balance a long time ago." Now, she says, "I strive for anti-exhaustion."

Beers called work-life balance "highly overrated." "Having your life out of control is very hard," says Beers, who wrote the memoir I'd Rather Be in Charge. "It also shows that you're in the game."

As for Stewart, the grande dame of all things etiquette, she also shared her dissatisfaction of the concept. "I was so balanced--up until the day my husband wrote me a letter that said 'I want a divorce.'" As it turns out, Stewart wasn't as balanced as she thought. The only difference since then: Now she admits that balance eludes her. "It's always work, work, work."

Such words surely come as little comfort for today's up-and-coming entrepreneurs who want to achieve the heights of Stewart and her peers--particularly if they also want to have a family. Yet some argue that the concept of balance is simply dated and insufficient for today's technology-infused world. Instead of balance, people ought to seek a more blended or harmonious existence. Consider how you can better integrate your home life within your work world and vice versa. What's more, this transition may be easier than you think. 

For her part, Stewart has learned to prioritize her work and her life on the same list. Some things just naturally take precedence, she says. "Work shouldn't be at the top when you have children."

Even Corcoran has a strategy: When she is feeling exhausted, she leaves her cellphone at home and heads to the nearest public library. There, she pulls out a yellow legal pad and draws a line down the center--making a "what I love" and "what I hate" list. "'What I hate' ends up being really long," she says. But when she reflects on what she loves, it helps her to dump all the things she hates.

Beers summed it up like this: "You're going to work much longer than you think. So think about why you work," she says. "You have the chance to create a different part of yourself." Growing professionally should be a goal just like growing a family, she says, adding a line she likes to repeat to herself every so often: "I grew ever larger in my attempt to grow in my work life."

Take that, balance.

Published on: Nov 10, 2014