‘Work-Life Balance Is a Lie’ – Fortune 500 CEO Explains Why She Gave Up

By: Lauren | Last updated: Nov 09, 2023

These days, the term “work-life balance” is used to describe an equilibrium between one’s personal life and their job.

However, famous CEO Thasunda Duckett recently told the world that she’s completely given up on the idea of work-life balance, and instead, has a different tactic to ensure she has everything she wants in life.

Thasunda Brown Duckett’s Method of Success

In an interview last week, Thasunda Duckett told the world that she realized she simply cannot give 100% of her time and energy to her professional career and her personal life.

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TIAA CEO Thasunda Duckett at the National Urban League Conference, 2022

Source: Brian Stukes/Getty Images

Instead, she treats her life and her time “like a diversified portfolio,” and that she allocates specific time for each of the tasks on her crowded plate.

How She Divides Her Time and Energy

Essentially, that means that her job, her kids, her husband, and her family never get 100% of her, as she says, that’s impossible anyway.

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Illustration of a woman balancing it all

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Duckett said that she prefers to split that 100% into segments, in other words, her kids get 30% of her, her job gets 30%, etc.

Understanding Time and Energy Allocation

The CEO went on to explain why this tactic works for her: “By understanding this allocation, I gave myself permission to respond to market volatility and have to recalibrate my portfolio. Sometimes you have to short the stock.”

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Friends gathered around table with food outside

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That means that Duckett is constantly adjusting those percentages as needed depending on what is going on in her home and work life.

30% of Her Time With 100% of Her Presence

The mother and executive wanted to make it clear that just because she allocates a certain amount of time and energy for her children and family does not mean she’s not completely present when she’s with them.

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Mom with two kids smiling

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In fact, it’s quite the opposite. By ensuring that when she’s home, Duckett is really home and not wishing she was at work, she can give 100% of her presence and attention.

How Did This Shift Come About?

Duckett also explained that she hadn’t always functioned with this “portfolio” mindset. She eventually realized she wasn’t giving her kids enough of her time and energy.

Collage of photos of Thasunda Brown Duckett and her children

Source: Thasunda Brown Duckett/Facebook

She said that at one point, she felt as though she was “failing as a mother” and wanted to make a real and lasting change. Now Duckett says now, “over time, I’m a really good mom.”

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Duckett Is Not Alone in Her Assessment of Work-Life Balance

In the interview when Duckett explained her take on work-life balance, the TIAA CEO was speaking directly to Alan Murray, CEO of Fortune.

Alan Murray, CEO of Fortune, at Kansas State University

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And Murray agreed with Duckett that trying to do it all simply doesn’t work like people hope it will.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Uses a Similar Tactic

Even Jeff Bezos, one of the most famous and richest CEOs on the planet uses a similar method.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at Air Force Association Conference

Source: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In regards to work-life balance, Bezos once said, “It actually is a circle. It’s not a balance.” And recommended that instead of finding the perfect balance, people should do what they can to find fulfillment at home and at work, separately.

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Women in the Workplace Specifically Struggle to Do it All

It’s important to note that while male executives can and certainly do weigh in on the idea of balancing family and work, women in the workplace seem to struggle more than their male counterparts to “do it all.”

Several women work side by side in an office

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And that is simply because many women feel guilty or less-than for leaving their families, and especially their children, to focus on work.

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It’s Not About Finding the Balance

In recent years, many full-time workers have tried desperately to figure out just how to balance their professional and personal lives.

Woman with coffee cup works on laptop with clock in foreground

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Some have tried to ensure they sign off at the end of the day and go home with a different mindset, while others have decided to take their work less seriously. But these CEOs argue that the idea of “balancing” will never work.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Give Work Your All When You’re There

Many workers cannot completely control their work schedules. Although many people do work a standard nine to five job, there are often emails, phone calls, or even tasks that need to be completed after hours.

Woman focused on work on the phone at desk

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So Duckett’s tactic is simple: When you’re working, be working. Don’t make yourself feel guilty for not being home when you can’t be home. But when you are with your family, give that everything you’ve got too.

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The On-Going Struggle to Find What Works for You

At the end of the day, everyone is different. What works for someone else simply may not work for you.

Woman celebrating and smiling

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Giving your family and personal life the same time and energy as you give your job could be exactly what you’re looking for to finally organize and enjoy your busy life.

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