Family, friends, work, sleep, fitness. Choose 3.

That was a compelling headline in my Twitter feed last week. In our eternal quest for work-life balance, somebody is finally telling it like it is: you cannot have it all.

The post was targeted at entrepreneurs, but the statement applies to anyone who is working, whatever shape “work” takes for them. It made me think back to when I was working full-time hours outside the home: which 3 did I choose then? Work of course dominated my waking hours. Whatever energy I had left was given to family and sleep (although, not enough to either). I certainly believed I was going to achieve work-life balance by quitting my corporate job. There’s no question I am wholly happier, in better health and generally less stressed. But do I have it all? After reading this post, I realized that I didn’t; I still had to choose 3. Today, I choose family, sleep and fitness. However, that is only because I am now no longer consulting and am in “pause” mode with any kind of work, so it’s admittedly a bit of a luxury that I can afford for now. But when I had work, I was definitely more stressed, even though it consumed a mere 8 to 10 hours a week – it really did feel like one too many things on the go with everything else I had chosen. I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time, but for me, it certainly validates the notion that once work comes into the picture, it’s hard to get balance.

What happens if I pick up some consulting work later? I have a feeling fitness will fall off the rails, but depending on what kind of work arrangement I can negotiate, maybe it doesn’t have to be complete abandonment. Maybe I can make it a smaller check mark in the box, which may or may not be satisfying to me.

Of course, this all made me start to wonder, “What happened to friends?”. They never seemed to make it to the list of 3. That’s not to say I never choose to see any friends. However, as an introvert, it might be fair to say that what I consider “time with friends” is different from an extrovert’s. Time spent with a large number of people really drains energy from introverts, so I much prefer to spend one-on-one time with people (not to mention that my friends all come from disparate circles anyway). But to get together with people one at a time can take a lot of time! I admit it’s not on the list of 3 as a priority, but I haven’t shelved it altogether.

So: family, friends, work, sleep, fitness. Choose 3. Every day we wake up, how our day will go is always determined by the choices we make.

Which 3 are you choosing?