Work – Life Balance for PMP Project Managers

by Rick Forbus, Ph.D.

work balance“Lesson not just karate only, lesson for whole life:  Whole life have a balance, everything be better.  Understand?”

Karate Kid, 1984

Life is full of surprises. Life can be laboriously routine, painfully unpredictable and even down right hilarious. Balance in all areas of life and work is a tough endeavor. It seems, at times, that the slightest shift in the “winds of circumstance” brings an imbalance that adds stressors and tension to the working professional. Project managers are not exempt.

In August, Strategy One conducted an online survey of 1,043 Americans that showed that:

  • Work – life balance is a problem in the U.S., according to 89% of those surveyed.

  • The recession has upended work – life balance for 31% of workers.

  • 44% of men ages 34-54 say they do not have adequate work -life balance.


“You know, the finest line a man will walk is between success at work and success at home.”                           

Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987

Most of my clients end up wanting to talk about how to get their life in balance. As I coach Project Managers, many talk of stress, over-extended hours, financial pressures and the general tension of working with teams. Finding a sense of balance is difficult in the forward-motion, multi-tasking and fast-paced world in which we live.


“You lose balance, you lose power.”

Eat, Pray, Love, 2010


Maintaining equilibrium takes intentional care and the assistance of a coach, in my opinion. If we could keep our lives balanced by ourselves we would do it. I know in my own life I need accountability, encouragement and tough love, at times, to keep a clear perspective of my life’s reality. 
One informal system I use with coaching clients is called the life-balance star. It helps them and me to track (mentally) the five components of balance that all of us struggle with. The five components include:


Keeping these five in balance is a chore. Setting goals in each category is important. There is no way to maintain perfect balance and certain ones gain health at the expense of another at times. Using physical health and relaxation to strengthen our professional life is one way to stay balanced. Spiritual health has a way of strengthening the other areas of life. Legacy considers not only what you will leave behind but who you are “being” now. Although I have written on this life-balance before, it continues to emerge as a prominent concern with project managers, emerging C-Suite leaders and those in pursuit of career changes.

“I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.”

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939

One project manager has had to chase projects all over the USA. Another seems to think he is overlooked time and again when Corporate Leadership has an opening. Another project manager is positioned well for an executive assignment. All struggle with work-life balance. As a coach, I see the warning signs of anxiety and full-grown stress as it becomes apparent in the coaching engagement. Often setting goals in areas of the life-balance star (above) other than just one’s professional life can bring about some stress relieving balance. Just as personal downtime can “medicate” our professional and physical “ailments,” caring for all areas of the life-balance star can help build resilience.  Holistic development seems to be the mantra of today’s coaching projects.

“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.”

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986

Maybe this is a good time to work at balancing these areas of your life. Consult with a coach or find an accountability partner to help you focus on work-life balance.

If you found these tips from Rick Forbus, PH.D. of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in his self-paced, downloadable courses at

__________________________________________ can help you maintain your PMP Certification whether you need one PMP PDU or 60 PMP PDUs. Try 5 PMP PDUs for FREE and see how easy it is to Earn n’ Learn™ while in your car, in your office, by the pool, or on the road!

Comments are closed.

PMI Logo1 Powered by, Inc. | Copyright © 2007 - 2017,, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.

"PMBOK, PMI, PMP and REP" are trademarks, service marks or certification marks of the Project Management Institute Inc. Inc. | 3500 Lenox Road, Suite 1500 | Atlanta, GA 30326 | 404-815-4644