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Comments by:Alice C. Early Career Coach Chilmark, MA

Well, maybe they’re kidding themselves, or maybe technology simply isn’t all that pervasive, but the great majority of respondents to last week’s Feedback Poll say they balance their professional and private lives quite well. Even if that’s true there’s little doubt that easy, round-the-clock access to clients and colleagues coupled with the can-do entrepreneurial drive this industry calls for makes for many a kid’s soccer game unattended. Consultant Alice C. Early, whose practice focuses largely on careers in transition, says that the imbalance between professional and private passions is endemic to all industries–and the guilt it produces is high indeed. The sad news is, it can only get worse.

“People separate the two less well than they want, and less well than they hope. There’s a lot of pressure expressed by the people who talk to me. They’re looking for a combination of more flexibility, more time to be with their families, more time just to regroup and to relax. And CEOs in particular have no time to think. When they talk about balance, they’re not only talking about personal time, but they’re also talking about a little bit of freedom to think about critical issues instead of constantly being in a response mode. They feel enslaved not only by their organizations, but also by all of their technology. Information hits you from all angles and none of us feels that we have the right to say I am unavailable.

“Most entrepreneurial people believe they can do everything well, and they often believe they are actually doing things better than they really are. It’s hubris. You never say no to your boss, your colleagues or your clients. But if you’re consistently saying no to your family, it produces guilt. It may have a positive impact on your business, although that’s debatable, but it certainly has an increasing and cumulative negative impact on your role in the family.

“My clients are about one-third real estate and two-thirds everything else, and the only difference I see is the higher concentration of people within real estate who are transactionally driven, entrepreneurial and have some client-service component to what they do. These people don’t want to miss information, they don’t want to miss out on a piece of a deal. They’re ambitious and they don’t want to be cut out of the loop or be treated as though they’re not players because they aren’t willing to be interrupted and brought into the discussion at any moment. They can’t let themselves think they’re dispensable or let anyone else think they’re dispensable. So if you go away, you tell your people, I’m going away, but you can always reach me.

“If they really want some balance, they constantly need to revisit these issues, because the pressures against it keep eroding their resolve. We are our own worst enemies.

“As for me, I balance less well than I used to. I always carry a cell phone. Part of my issue is a very elderly relative, but that’s my excuse. Now I have clients calling me at nine o’clock at night and on Sunday morning.”

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