Series on Work-Life Balance: Steve Jobs

The New York Times had published the eulogy that Steve Jobs’s sister wrote to celebrate his life at his funeral. With her words, Mona Simpson paints a picture of a man who was commercially successful and had professional presence – and who was larger than life and really knew how to live.

From her touching eulogy, we can gather a few simple work-life balance lessons from a man who was very successful in his work life and simultaneously present in his home life.

1. Do what you love. According to Jobs’s sister, “Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day. That’s incredibly simple, but true.” The time that Steve Jobs invested in his job was worthwhile, despite his untimely death, because he felt true passion for his work. He felt fulfilled by what he did at the office each day. It was worth it to leave his home each morning to participate in the work he loved, so his work-life balance made sense.

2. Do it yourself. Only you can maintain your own work-life balance. If you become so absorbed in work and so far removed from normal life that the only side of you anyone sees is your professional presence, there might be a problem with your ability to find balance. Even as a very successful businessman, Jobs made the time to dress casually and pick a family member up from the airport. Jobs’s sister describes, “Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.” Delegating is an important management skill, but connecting to ordinary life is an important work-life balance skill. Make sure to mow your own lawn and iron your own shirts every now and again.

3. Cultivate your interests. Despite his commercial success, his professional presence, and his investment in his career, Steve Jobs also cultivated his outside interests, such as travel, gardening, and boats. His sister asks, “What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?” By similarly investing in your outside interests, you will be a more well-rounded person, and you will be more able to return to work refreshed and ready to give it your all after taking time for yourself.

4. Cultivate your love. One of Jobs’s primary characteristics was his deep love for and abiding interest in his wife and his four children. Indeed, “he believed that love happened all the time, everywhere,” according to his sister. With love for his family set as his primary concern, his work-life balance came naturally.

How do you consciously work toward greater balance between your work life and personal life?