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Balancing act: Quest for work-life balance comes down to time, trade-offs

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So much of life is a series of trade-offs.

In order to get more of one thing, you give up some of another. That's just the way it works.

The give-and-take in my life has had a direct impact on my desire to build balance, and it has changed significantly since I switched jobs a few months ago.

One example of that change comes down to time, as it so often does.

As I wrote in a previous column, the hours I spent in the office at my previous job were fairly regular — and also relatively short. I usually started my drive to work at about 7:45 a.m., after dropping children off at school, and arrived at the office around 8:15 a.m. I'd stay until sometime between 4 and 5 p.m., often trying to leave closer to 4 to beat traffic. To make up for that short day, I'd check email and complete a little work after returning home each afternoon.

After more than three years on that schedule, I was in a rhythm. I arrived home before 5 p.m., had a quick snack to tide me over until dinner and then helped with chores, errands or homework.

That early arrival also meant I had plenty of time to read, watch television or otherwise unwind at the end of the day.

My schedule has changed dramatically since I made my most recent career switch.

The new job requires more hours in the office. For one thing, I'm managing a larger team — almost 20 people — so just juggling one-on-one meetings with them every other week takes a significant chunk of time.

I'm also working with another manager and a couple of other employees to start an entirely new project. Building something from scratch is exciting and one of the main reasons I opted to move to this new position. However, the creation process takes a lot of time and mental energy.

At the same time, my company is growing extremely quickly. To properly direct that growth, our leadership team meets often to plan for the future and decide how to execute those plans.

Finally, a rapidly growing company needs more workers, so I spend several hours each week in job interviews, trying to find candidates to help us meet our goals.

I guess you could say I'm busy. And that brings me back to time and trade-offs.

I still get to work at about 8:15 a.m., but now I usually stay at the office until 5:15 or 5:30 p.m., sometimes pushing closer to 6. That means I don't get home until 6 p.m. or later most days.

This has been a big change for me. While I'm only getting home an hour or hour-and-a-half later than before, it feels like there's much less of the day available to me when I do arrive.

If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. My hours now are similar to those of most office workers, and I knew this job would require longer days in Cubeville than my last one did. I talked extensively with my wife and children about this before deciding to make the change, and we all agreed that the potential benefits of the new gig were worth the sacrifices.

Even better, I've found a way to reclaim some of that lost time.

At my last job, I commuted by car. The drive usually wasn't bad, taking about 25 minutes. But when the snow flew or an accident occurred, I would sometimes spend an hour or more heading either to or from work.

While this did give me an opportunity to listen to the radio and get in touch with the music my daughters like — yes, I know Taylor Swift songs, and I like many of them — it felt like wasted time.

That's changed with my new job. I'm working in downtown Salt Lake City again, which means it's easy for me to take the train to and from the office. I love having that half-hour at each end of the day to do things that I couldn't do while driving.

If it's been a long week, I might use my train time to take a little nap. Or I'll use that 30 minutes to finish up work, which allows me to leave the office earlier than I otherwise would without having to complete tasks at home.

I also now spend my commute catching up on social media, writing personal email, listening to tunes (the latest Imagine Dragons album is especially good), reading a novel (I just finished "To Kill a Mockingbird" for the first time — don't judge) or even writing this column. I've done the latter a few times, and I've been surprised how easy it was to concentrate on writing while on the train, though I have noticed that people tend to look over my shoulder while I'm typing. (Yeah, buddy, I'm talking about you.)

And while I may not be around my family for as many hours each day, I think my wife and children would agree that I'm much less stressed when I haven't had to face a nasty commute. They're exchanging more time with a sometimes grouchy guy for slightly less time with a more relaxed guy. They seem to be OK with that.

Life really is all about trade-offs. The swaps I've made recently are working, and I hope you're having similar success in your work-life balance quest.

In fact, I'd be interested to hear your take on this. What give-and-take have you seen in your attempts to build better balance? What tips or suggestions would you give to others? What trade-offs have you tried that didn't work as well as you had hoped?

Please send me your ideas, and I'll try to share some of them in a future column.

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.