Sometimes I don't know where my business ends and where I begin. Any advice on dealing with the blurred line?

You’ll be surprised at my answer because I am. It isn’t the one I would have given five years ago, when I would have made a pithy statement about the separation of church and state, or some such thing. Now, I know better. My answer is: You can’t! Blurred lines are good.

You are one person and so the various roles in your life simply can’t be sealed into separate compartments. In fact, the opposite is true. You are embedded in both a personal and a business world and if you want to be authentic and creative in both spheres, you need to think holistically. Accept and welcome their interconnectedness. This is where innovation lies.

A case in point. I am writing this column while sitting in a hospital waiting room where I have driven my husband for a medical test. I have a long list of urgent things to do at the office (deadlines, presentations, and a pending conference call) but I don’t feel conflicted and have no anxiety at all. Why? Because years ago I set my priorities as follows:

1)      Self—based on the old adage, “Put your own oxygen mask on first.”

2)      Family—because they are the foundation of my life.

3)      Work—my guiding passion and sustenance.

4)      Other—changes over time (e.g., commitments to friends, volunteer work.)

When demands collide, I just follow the list.

Now I’m not talking about living and working in some wild and crazy world where chaos reigns. I used to have a colleague who got panicked phone calls regularly for her to solve the latest crisis. I believe she enabled this to happen and got satisfaction from being her family’s fixer.

Rather, take a good look at the conflicting demands made on your time by work, family, and personal activities (like working out). Lean into them. Face them head on rather than resisting. Use your priority list and act accordingly. Your stress level will decrease immediately.

What is interesting to me is the cross-fertilization of ideas that results from this approach. Allowing your real self and your real personal life to intersect with your work lets you nurture your greatest business ally—yourself. Allow your ideas to surface, regardless of where and when they emerge. Your work will improve and your family life will be calmer and more productive.

And did I get everything done in this busy day of mine? Yes, I did. Not in the order I had planned, but in the order the day required. The real benefit for me was that I remembered an old book by Bryan et al (1998) on the topic of self and work, went home and dug it out, and am now enjoying what it has to offer. If I had not been writing this column while sitting in the waiting room, I would never have remembered it. Have faith that everything will get done. It will! And oh, by the way, my husband is fine.

Gail Vallance Barrington

Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter. June 2018.


Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Bryan, M., Cameron, J, Allen, C. (1998). The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon. New York: Morrow.

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