Work-life balance is one of the biggest conundrums of our times. The idea first originated during the industrial revolution to encourage people to have a healthy family life beyond factory shifts. However, with the 9–5 shifts long dead and buried, the notion of having a perfect work-life balance remains nothing more than a historical anomaly — out of touch with reality. Therefore, it is unfortunate that this flawed idea still continues to dictate people’s work choices and remains a fashionable topic of discussion in the industry.

The flaws in the theory

According to Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There’s work, and there’s life, and there’s no balance.”

The biggest flaw in this theory is the 50/50 approach which suggests that we balance our work and personal life. In reality, we spend most of our time at work and therefore, this goal of giving equal attention to both seems pretty elusive and airy-fairy.

Another gaping hole in the work-life balance theory is the fact that it considers work exclusive of life and strives for a balance between the two, which could not be further from the truth. Work is an essential part of life and can’t be, at any point, held mutually exclusive of life. At times, you will be faced with competing priorities and you will be required to burn the candle at both ends. Depending on your priorities and aspirations, you will have to do what it takes to bring your dreams to fruition, and you will have to learn to accept your choices and live with the consequences.

This is the reason why people seeking work-life balance end up being disappointed, depressed or disillusioned. This flawed theory allows them to believe that they can have everything if they compartmentalise life in different departments- work, family, social life, and personal time. They get sucked up in the never-ending race of having the best of everything, and eventually run the risk of burning-out. What work-life model fails to enunciate is the fact that it is difficult to compartmentalise life and, more often than not, you will find the different aspects of your life spilling into each other.

The Microsoft story

In one of his interview, Bill Gates famously said that he was fanatical about work during his early days. “I worked weekends, I didn’t really believe in vacations.” It was only when Microsoft business gathered steam that Bill Gates decided to take it slow and think about other things in life. If you look at the track-record of other tech geniuses, too, be it Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs, you will see a similar strain of workaholism. It just goes on to establish the fact that the initial years are always the most challenging, be it your career or even your enterprise. If you want to be successful and carve a name for yourself, you will have to, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “lean in” and work hard.

Efficiency is the key

You’re the same person trying to fit into different roles. The key is to know what roles you are supposed to be in, and when you are supposed to be in them. You can still be a parent while at work and an accountant while at home. It is perfectly alright to carry your work back home once in a while, and finish the backlog. Similarly, don’t feel guilty about leaving office early to attend your child’s sports event. Truly, it’s all about your efficiency and fluidity to fit into each role smoothly. Work-life balance is just a myth. Below are a few ways to help you improve your productivity and efficiency.

1. Time management — the secret sauce of happiness

Time management is a chief ingredient that goes into making a perfect life recipe. Following a priority list of tasks that you wish to accomplish each week will help you stay focused. However, you have to be ready for any ad hoc changes. For instance, if a sudden work-related travel has thrown a wrench in your plans of playing a game of Scrabble with your kid, don’t feel guilty about sacrificing the family time for work. Instead of feeling overwhelmed because of this trade-off, remember to barter some low-priority task on the list with a Scrabble game with your kid.

It is of great essence to learn to prioritize the tasks and wing everything as it comes. Also remember to shift your priorities and focus your energies on what must be done, as per the need of the hour. You have to know what matters when. This is the cardinal rule of time-management.

2. Gauge your time-management skills

One simple test to appraise your time-management skills would be to look at your high priority and urgent tasks. If every task on your list calls for a sense of urgency that is entirely disproportionate to its priority, you know that your priorities have gone awry and you must re-evaluate your approach to work and life, at large.

3. Assess your situation and act accordingly

Remember that it is nearly impossible for anyone to follow the 50:50 distribution of work and life, as suggested by the work-life theory. Instead, strive for a ratio that works best for you. It is your time. Customize it according to your priorities and do what feels the best to you. For some, spending 80 percent of their time at work and 20 percent outside work sounds ideal; for others, the ratio might be different. Toss away the old myth about the need to balance work and life. Just like everything else in life, find a rhythm that suits your situation the best. ‘Perfect balance’ is illusive,‘harmony’ is what you should aim for.

Whether you are a novice eyeing to land your first job or an expert professional designing to move up your career hierarchy, the significance of a job offer can never be understated. We all agree that your job selections will impact your career in the long run, and hence, if you want a career embossed with highlights, you will have to be prudent about your job choices. No matter how apt the field of opportunity, if you are not ardent about it, you will wind up lamenting your choices. So, how do you pick the precise job without having to worry if you have made the right decision? Read on to find out how to appraise a job offer and make an informed decision.

1.     Categorize your priorities

All of us have diverse objectives, so you have to assess your status quo and regulate your priorities, depending on where you are at in your life and career. Whether you are driven by money, knowledge or are simply seeking a decent work-life balance, make sure you fathom your current priorities as you assess the job offers.

2.     Don’t be driven by the temptation of big brands

No one can deny the appeal of adding a big brand tag to their resume. However, if the role doesn’t give the exposure or the erudition that you are eyeing for, then the move can quickly boomerang, and upset your integrity as a professional. Hence, while taking up a job, you need to look beyond the appeal of the company brand and examine yourself why you want to work there. If it is learning, exposure and development that you seek, then you would do well to put aside the deliberations like remuneration or brand name, and emphasis especially on the job profile while considering a job offer.

3.     Contemplate beyond money

Adjudging a job solely on pecuniary considerations is a common slip-up among job pursuers that sets them up for fiasco in future. This is principally true for today’s job gallery where cut-throat race imposes the need to continually evolve in your job; and pick up innovative, high-end skills in your field. Mirror on the following questions before choosing a potential employer in order to understand whether the company will truly enable your growth as a professional.

•       Do you see any learning prospective?

Careers are fabricated through years of toiling and learning, and therefore, it is apparent that the prospects of learning should be the most analyzed aspect of any job. What do you stand to gain in terms of skills, knowledge and experience, should be, perhaps, the most demanding question about any potential job. While dynamics like reward, regard, or title are equally imperative, keeping them at the core of your decision-making while evaluating a job offer is the most lethal career gaffe.

•       What kind of career path does the company assure you?

Contemplate over what kind of career path you can anticipate from taking up this particular role. Is this company thoughtful about the development of its human resources? Will there be breaks to upgrade your skills and undertake stretch assignments? Will this job be a stepping stone to a higher level, or will it be just a lateral career move with a plumper salary?

•       Is there any room for evolution?

Is it a learning organization, where employees are encouraged to continuously learn and evolve? While considering your job, question yourself if this job will add something to your personal toolkit that can help you grow as an individual. Also consider what are the career trajectories and how does the company embolden its employees’ individual development?

4.     Be observant of the organizational beliefs

If your prospective employer has offered you a desirable job profile and outstanding remuneration, you, perhaps, must be wondering that you have found your fantasy job and need not fear about anything else. Well, as a matter of fact, there is one more facet of your job that you must take into reason before accepting the job offer – the environment and ethos of the organization. If you see yourself as an individual worker and enjoy structure and competition, the corporate itinerary would suit you best. However, if you want a vibrant environment and prize your freedom and autonomy, startups may work out to be a virtuous choice for you.

And so, before joining a firm, you must introspect whether it is a place where you will fit in? You have to fathom what kind of environment you would blossom in and accordingly make a choice.

5.     Long term goals

Fine, all things being alike, you must choose a company where you see yourself employed long term. Do you fancy steadiness in your career and would like to mature within the firm? Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What is your career dream for that period, and how does that align with your long term goals, say 20 years down the line? Consider each of your job choices as another rung in your career ladder, so, if you anticipate moving up the hierarchy and closer to your career goals, you have to be farsighted about the jobs you accept. Each time you change jobs, you must look at it as a career move and not simply a job change.

6.     Go with the gut

All things measured, the concluding verdict to accept or not must be left to the little voice in your head that many call instinct. Habitually, we are so overawed by the influx of facts and figures that we lose vision of what we essentially want. Your reflex knows you best – automatic reactions are often based on intangible things that your mind picks up subconsciously. Probe yourself “Do I truly want to work here?” and after serious contemplation, make your move. After all, if you devote one-third of your life at work, you must relish what you do.

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Startup – probably one of the most discussed words of our current times, yet one of the least understood. While the meaning of the word ‘startup’ is already widely misconstrued, the Pop Culture narrative of startups in a glamorized avatar has further distorted the picture. Most people equate startups with twenty something entrepreneurs, co-working style and easy millions, which is only a quarter of the truth. There is a flip side to this story – about the trials and travails of the entrepreneurial journey. So, we thought why not separate the grain from the chaff – the truth from the fluff- and show you what exactly is a startup?

The most accepted definition of startups comes from Steve Blank, the pioneer of Lean Startup movement, who calls it a “scalable business model”. However, it means different things to different people; for example, Jan Koum, the co-founder of Whatsapp calls startups “a feeling”. Similarly, Adora Cheung, CEO of Homejoy, calls it “a state of mind”. So, whatever be the connotation of the word ‘startup’, in this blog, we will delve into a startup mind and try to and figure what it takes to survive in the startup ecosystem.

Small businesses are not startups

People often tend to use the words startup and small business interchangeably, which is factually incorrect. What separates the two business entities is their business model and the vision for future. A small business is a self-sustaining organization focused on generating revenues, operating within the tried-and-tested domain, and steering clear of any risk.

A startup, on the other hand, is an unchartered territory that is riddled with risks every step of the way. Its focus is on scalability – creating equity in a company envisioned to become publicly traded or acquired, generating a multi-million-dollar payoff in future. Therefore, it should suffice to say that the two business models are as disparate as the brains behind them. Both call for an entirely different mental makeup: one necessitates a play-safe mindset while the other relies on a startup mindset.

What is a startup mindset?

Now that we have established that startups and risk are synonymous with each other, let’s understand what is it about startupreneurs that they are so willing to embrace the risk, without getting daunted by the prospect of failure? While it is difficult to point out a single trait that dictates this mindset, the most palpable traits that are common to almost all startup founders are as follows:

  • Inquisitiveness: a desire to understand why things happen the way they do.
  • Courage: staying mentally strong on a rocky road calls for copious amounts of courage.
  • Dissatisfaction with the status quo: at the core of an entrepreneur is the desire to build something the world hasn’t seen yet.

Are you cut out for startups?

In order to work in a startup, you need to have a startup mindset. So, if you are planning to take a plunge into the startup world, here is a question for you:  Why do you want to join a startup? If you are considering joining a startup because of the lucrative employee equity packages, or because your career has reached a dead-end, or just because it’s an “in” thing, you should probably reconsider your decision. According to a report in Fortune magazine, nine out of ten startups fail. So, people who like stability and comfort zone should probably abstain from the startup scene. Joining a startup is an all hands on deck kind of lifestyle, so unless you are really looking forward to a steep learning curve and are mentally prepared to do the grunt work, startup might not work out be an optimal decision for you. You should consider the startup route only if you are driven by a higher cause and are looking for something bigger than money or prestige.

Big companies can be startups, too

While startup culture is often associated with wunderkinders having no resources except for an idea, it’s not always true. At the end of day, it’s not about the business model, but the vision. Big companies like Google keep innovation at the core of their initiatives and work with what they call startup innovation mindset. Employees are encouraged to give 20 percent of their working hours to Pet-Projects, during which they can work on their ideas and build products they desire.

A few other corporates such as Salesforce also follow this innovation ecosystem, which makes them stand out from their counterparts. Salesforce has solidified its reputation as an innovative corporate and has won Forbes “Most Innovative Company” award four times in a row. Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO, knows the value of innovation and tries to propagate the startup mindset in each of his employees by giving them a free-hand in their projects.

Though the semantics beg to differ and the world won’t agree to these established corporates being called as startups, it is fair to assume that a startup is, all things considered, a state of mind. No doubt, the bulk and size of corporates puts them in an altogether different universe vis-à-vis the startups, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be inventive and fast-paced like start-ups. They just need to figure out a way.