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If I can’t have it all, can I at least have the important stuff?

One of the many topics Randi Zuckerberg discussed in her fantastic keynote at the HR Technology Conference (#HRTechConf) was the concept that you cannot have it all – you must ‘pick three’; Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends.

There are many variations of this theme – sometimes called ‘work life balance’, sometimes under concepts such as ‘habits of ridiculously successful people’. Overall, the message is the same, we are struggling to figure out how to have it all and most of the time being told we can’t.

Struggling to balance the basics

The first couple of weeks of September I felt like I was stuck in one of those books. The month kicked off with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I made the trek with my family from Texas to Pennsylvania, returning home for the first time in almost a year. In addition to barely seeing my family for over a year, I had gained two new nephews, making a grand total of eight children between mine and my nieces and nephews. Now, here is the horrible part – we were there for five days (including the weekend) and I worked two of them; and I felt horribly guilty that I was not working more.

After the visit, my husband took the girls back home and I headed to Las Vegas for the HR Technology conference. The emails continued to build faster than I could respond. My tasks were becoming overwhelming, and every minute that slipped by that I wasn’t at my computer working, made me feel like I was drowning.

I was left with a very difficult decision – be truly present at the conference: paying attention to the speakers, absorb all the amazing technologies being introduced, and interact face-to-face with the attendees, or, lug my computer with me and work and ‘listen’ at the same time. I chose to be present. I met great people, walked the floor thoroughly, listened to the speakers. I left the hotel room by 7:00am each day and didn’t return until 9:00pm at night. It was a great event.

However, I returned home with more work than I could possibly do in a month and as a co-founder and CEO of a start-up, every minute counts. I worked non-stop through the weekend after I got home, giving up time with my girls to try and scratch the surface of the mountain of work.

Did I do the right thing?

Like many founders, I am on a mission I believe in to the core. I am obsessively driven to push through the noise and make a difference – to end bias in hiring, and create a world where people are evaluated based on what they can do and what they bring to a company, and not what they look like or any other irrelevant information. Of course, founders are obsessed, otherwise why would we skip holidays with our families, work all weekend, every weekend, and struggle with the lore of bringing our laptops to meetings to ‘multi-task’.

However, my father (who is also a founder and CEO) once told me “No one ever laid on their deathbed and said ‘I should have worked more’”.

And so, during times like this, when I couldn’t manage balancing the basics of family, work, and sleep, let alone the other stuff – I wonder did I do the right thing?

What do you think? What have you done in similar situations where keeping your head above water is an unobtainable best-case scenario?

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