How to strike a correct work-life balance?

I started a start-up during my undergraduate studies. We did well for a while but were soon out of funds. I graduated and joined a 10-5 job which paid me well. Exactly 365 days into it, I resigned and embraced the travails of higher studies. Whether I was working for my startup out of my college hostel or was a regular corporate bitch or a studious student, one thing that always bugged me was the work-life balance. There were days when I burnt midnight oil and had little time to spare for the family or friends. There were other days when I was so much into the friends that work took the back burner. This is a perpetual problem with all of us. How do we strike a correct work-life balance. What do we give more priority to? Work or life?

I have asked too many individuals, my friends, my colleagues,  my supervisors, my mentors. But all their replies have been very subjective. For example, most of my supervisors would suggest me to put more impetus on work as this helps them get their work done.In the parallel universe, my friends would want me to priorities friendship and relationships as it would mean more hanging out together. So, if you look for the answer externally, you are slated to get a biased opinion.

I finally found my answer from Bryan Dyson, erstwhile President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises. In commencement speech at Georgia Tech he said-

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

These lines suggest a perfect and simple way to strike a work-life balance. While I agree with the approach that he suggests, I believe that he disparages the importance of “work”. Priority wise work might find itself at the last seat, but it is no less critical, as it is required to maintain “family,health,friends and spirit”. So for me, these balls are interchangeable,i.e, work can be rubber ball or glass ball and so can be the others, depending on the gravity of situation. The key to right balance is to identify the right ball. For example, if you have a critical presentation at office. Then, your work becomes the glass ball. If you let it go, it smashes into pieces. On a different day, if your child is performing at some event in school, your family becomes your glass ball while you can afford to drop the rubber ball of work. Health is more or less the perpetual glass ball.

So, the key to perfect work-life balance is to identify your glass and rubber balls. If you are a good juggler, you can keep all the balls in the air. Even if you aren’t, make sure you don’t let go your glass ball.