The other day, I was speaking with a new potential coaching client, the CFO of a local nonprofit. We began to explore why she had sought out a coach, and she shared that she was looking for help with time management. I’ve learned that these days when someone says they need help with time management it can mean a wide range of topics. It can mean anything from an inability to utilize Asana or Evernote (two popular time management apps) to very real challenges around prioritization and focus.  

As we took a deeper dive, this executive explained that she loved her work, spent many hours on the job, and experienced tremendous fulfillment from serving her community. Yet her partner was constantly telling her she lacked work/life balance. This was causing a substantial amount of strain on the relationship.  

“What do you think about your work/life balance?” I asked. My potential client got very quiet.  After several moments of silence, where it was clear she was struggling, she admitted that she had no idea as to what the “right” amount of work/life balance looked like to her; or her partner for that matter.  

This is not an unusual topic and one that comes up often in coaching conversations. Rarely can anyone provide the perfect definition of work/life balance. I’ll add that I’ve actually made similar comments to my wife, an extremely talented and hard-working professional (and yes, I’m a bit biased!) So, as I considered my potential client’s plight as well as what I’ve said to my wife on more than one occasion, an important realization hit me:  

Work/Life Balance is a thought created construct used to judge someone through our own lens and way of being in the world: When I tell someone they don’t have work/life balance, I’m saying they’re not living to MY standard of the amount of time one should work, play, relax, and engage in other activities. It has nothing to do with what they are satisfied with. If I’m being assertive, I’ll work to have them believe my standard is the right one. And if I’m being downright forceful, I’ll get them to commit and live by my definition of work/life balance.  

How to Observe Your Time 

Have you experienced what I’m referencing on either side of the equation? If you’re thinking you want to move into a different mindset about how you look at your time and work/life balance, here are a few possibilities:

Think about time as a commodity. You get to make choices about how you invest and spend it. When I discuss time with clients, I invite them to notice when they’re investing and where they’re simply spending it. There’s value in both. Investing time means there may be an element of an ROI or return on investment – that could be financial or social. For example, my potential client got a tremendous social/personal return from the time she invested in her work. As a personal example, while my time playing guitar or running might not offer an apparent return, it replenishes my creative spark and amps up my overall energy.  

Take two weeks to track your time: One of the first things I do with clients concerned about work/life balance is to ask them to track their time. I also ask them where they make their most valued contributions in the various areas of their life. While I encourage them to treat the exercise seriously, I also offer that they keep it light – don’t track minute to minute; just look for broad strokes. Most importantly, I encourage them not to change anything – for now. This exercise typically provides some aha moments and wakes them up to opportunities to make shifts about where they invest and spend.  

And finally…

Create and live into your own definition of work/life balance: Only you know what lights you up and lets you live to your full potential.

Happy Exploring!

If you’re ready to learn more skills to help you manage your time and work/life balance, then join our Foundation Course or Coaching for Personal & Professional Mastery program.

About the Author: 

Robert Grabel is committed to serving others with a career that has included work in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. After growing his practice in financial services, he has spent over two decades in the nonprofit arena doing everything from launching his own start-up charity to serving in senior leadership roles where he helped raise millions in support of a wide range of causes including senior care, healthcare, homelessness, education reform, and youth development. He is a passionate advocate for the nonprofit sector, writes and speaks on a wide range of industry topics, and volunteers for organizations in his own community. 

Robert created Nonprofit Now! ( to provide organizations and their leaders with the support they need to change the world. From Executive Coaching and Board Development to Fundraising Consulting and Development, Nonprofit Now! offers leaders customized services nonprofits need to grow and thrive.    

He completed his coach training with the Newfield Network and earned his Coaching for Personal and Professional Mastery certification. Robert has also participated in Intentional Prosperity for Coaches, a group program led by Melissa Ford focused on growing a prosperous coaching program. 

 Robert recently completed his first book, Just Do The Work: The Portable Nonprofit Coach.

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