How to Balance Your Career Goals with Family

Don’t apologize for wanting to be an achiever.

You’re willing to work hard.

You take the extra assignment.

You want to do whatever is necessary to get ahead.

While some today use overachiever as a derogatory term, you reach for the higher rung — with the best of motives.

If your aim is excellence for the sake of your ego, you’re likely headed for failure. But if you want to shine for the benefit of others, for your employer or because of your faith, you might be amazed at what comes of your efforts.

Still you must be careful to remember what really matters.

The Important Stuff

When I was a newlywed and a publishing executive, I pursued my ultimate dream of becoming a full-time freelance writer by taking assignments on the side from various magazines.

Once I happened to interview five men about twice my age, all at roughly the same time.

At one point in the interviews I asked each man the same question: What regret do you have at this stage of life?

Each said they wished they’d spent more time with their kids during the growing up years.

I’ll never forget telling my wife Dianna that clearly someone was trying to tell me something. “If I get to that age and have that same regret, I’m going to be without excuse.”

Set Some Guidelines

We established a policy that once we had kids, I would do no writing or any office work from the time I got home after work until the kids went to bed. (Of course, sometimes we put them to bed at 4:30!)

That also meant no hiding behind the newspaper or planting myself in front of the TV or sticking my nose in a book. Every day I would relieve Dianna from parenting duties and devote myself to our son, and then two sons, and finally three.

It’s one thing to tell your family they are your top priority — it’s another to prove it.

Kids hear what you say. They believe what you do. Love is spelled T-I-M-E.

The Quality vs. Quantity Time Myth

When Dianna and I were raising our sons, experts advised busy parents: If you don’t have a lot of time to spend with your kids, make sure the time you do spend with them is quality time.

I guess that meant you were supposed to discuss the meaning of the universe.

My kids often just wanted to climb on me.

The eldest and the youngest were talkers. They liked to engage while we played. Our middle son didn’t care so much about talking, as long as we played.

While naturally we didn’t agree on everything, none of them rebelled as teenagers. And today, with all of them in their 30s, we’re still close friends.

The Surprising Added Benefit

Besides the cherished memories of bonding (and a collection of the precious things kids say at various ages), I discovered an unexpected bonus.

Though I am the opposite of a night person, I was forced to push my writing to later in the evening, 9 p.m. to midnight most nights and found myself more productive during those years than in any period since.

In fact, I produced an average of more than five books a year, despite also working full time.


Because I was forced to redeem the time I had carved out to write. And when I did write, I wrote without guilt. I religiously followed my personal policy and rigidly maintained my priorities.

I refused to sacrifice my family on the altar of my career.

Do the same, and in your golden years you’ll enjoy the rich benefits of both.

(Photo by tvol / CC BY)

Jerry B. Jenkins has written 187 books with sales of more than 70 million copies. He’s had 21 New York Times bestsellers, including the Left Behind series, and he now shares his writing knowledge with aspiring authors at You can grab his free guide for anyone who wants to write a book here.


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