Have you ever had one of those days, or weeks, when you are so overextended, both at work and at home, that you can’t tell which way is up?

Of course you have. We all have at one time or another. For some people, those days are a regular occurrence, like laundry.

Many of us hear the phrase “work/life balance” and laugh. For many people, it’s a myth. It’s a struggle for most of the CPAs I meet. The CPA profession is demanding: The hours are long, the career path strenuous. And the professional demands are often the greatest around the same time that most people’s personal lives demand their greatest attention.

A conference I attended last week for women in accounting addressed that very issue. In the last session of the two-day event, one of the speakers began her discussion by handing everyone a sheet of paper that listed 51 personal priorities. Among them: being creative, getting ahead, having a close family, achieving goals, simplifying my life, using my talents and skills, leaving a legacy. At the top of the sheet, it said, “Please check five.”

My colleague Carly and I looked at the sheet for a minute, then looked at each other. She said exactly what I was thinking: “I can’t just pick five.”

The point of the exercise was to help you decide what your most important drivers are. Or, as our discussion leader Kathleen Lingle, national work/life director at KPMG, put it, “You have put your five big boulders out there and fill the space around that with work. If you don’t, work will fill all of that space.”

Something else she said struck a chord with me. Lingle said she avoids the word balance “like the plague, because it implies that there’s a scale, and that if you were only good enough, fast enough, that you could get as much on the right side as on the left.” As she pointed out, that isn’t what it’s about. The idea isn’t to try to get both sides of the work/life equation to be equal. It’s to be equally successful at both, but that doesn’t necessarily mean spending an equal amount of time at both.

I’m sure many of you are thinking, “That’s great, but those flexible work arrangements and family-friendly policies would never fly where I work.”

Maybe you think it’s too expensive to implement benefits like back-up childcare or telecommuting. Would hearing the business case for doing things to improve the lives of your employees help convince you?

Consider this: KPMG estimated that the return on investment on its emergency back-up childcare program after one year was 250 percent. After four years, the ROI jumped to 521 percent. Compelling, isn’t it? For more on that, you’ll have to talk to Kathleen.

So, we’ve all heard similar advice about making time for the things that are important to us. But how many of us do it?

There will always be deadlines to meet, work to do, tasks to cross off of your to-do list. At the holidays, especially, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. On top of our regular demands, we have family and social obligations to meet, perhaps gifts to shop for, and often, more deadlines to meet than usual in order to accommodate vacation schedules. And when we do take days off this time of year, how many of us actually spend them relaxing?

I hope you spend this holiday doing what’s important to you with the people who are important to you. Make your list of what’s most important and prioritize accordingly. Happy Thanksgiving.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access