Are You a Cardboard Cutout at Home?

In recent years, the phrase “work-life balance” is not appearing as often in business articles. Now, we just call it “balance” or even “mindfulness.”


Yet, I had a conversation recently with a client who said that he wanted to improve his work-life balance.


One thing he said was striking:


“I know too many people who are cardboard cutouts at home.” ~Ed Wildermuth


He has colleagues and clients whose involvement at home is limited, unfocused, and disingenuous. It’s almost as if there is a permanently smiling, one-dimensional version of themselves that gets propped up in the corner of the living room.


What an image!


This man wants to be fully present with his family.


The question is, what do you want to be?


All of us must periodically reassess our priorities. Just like the tires on your car, life requires regular rebalancing.


Here are 10 tips to improve your work-life balance:


  • Set crystal clear goals. Identify the most important areas in your life such as: work, professional development, family/friends, spiritual and health. When a situation arises and you need to make a choice, this priority list will come in handy.
  • Accept the fact that your workday is stretched and be willing to fail. Decide when you are willing to give more or when it’s time to “take a mulligan.”
  • Ask yourself often “Is this what I want to be doing now? Does this activity meet my goals?” The Pareto Principle says that twenty percent of activities result in 80% of the results. Outsource, delegate or let go of the rest.
  • Carve out time to exercise and get enough sleep. It is hard to think clearly if you are sleep-deprived and/or non-active. Everything is a lot easier when you are at your peak, feeling rested and exercising regularly.
  • Take breaks from work to improve your productivity. Giving your brain a rest resets it. For example, after a five-minute walk, it is easier to tackle a high intensity task. It takes less time to find solutions.
  • Set boundaries up front with your clients and colleagues. Let them know if weeknights and weekends are acceptable. Is it OK to text you? Most clients will respect your wishes. The key is to let them know.
  • Eliminate as many errands as possible and combine the rest. Errands can take a big chunk out of your free hours. Consider outsourcing when possible and batch the rest together. Organizing your errands ahead of time allows you to combine them and improve your efficiency.
  • Say no, especially if the task you have been asked to handle interferes with important plans and your goals. If a supervisor or partner assigns you a specific project, ask him/her what projects you should work on first so you can handle priorities. If you get too much on your plate, life won’t stand a chance.
  • Start slowly and keep a journal. Make adjustments to your current lifestyle gradually and keep track of the impact of those changes.
  • Identify the kind of balance that is right for you. While some people are happy working 24/7, others may prioritize non-work activities. If you and your significant others are satisfied, then you’re there! Balance is an internal standard, not an external one.


Start now to achieve your balance between work and life. It will be worth it.


Any questions? Contact me. I can help you become more productive, allowing you more time to spend on work and life.


It’s your choice – cardboard cutout or fully present.


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.



  1. Janet Barclay

    Great insight, as usual!

    I think many people set work as a priority out of fear that if they don’t, their career and/or income will suffer, and they fail to realize that their family life may suffer as a result. It’s not worth risking relationships or missing out on seeing your kids grow up just to have a nicer house or car!

  2. Seana Turner

    I know I’ve had that feeling about my husband. Sometimes he is sitting there across from me, but his mind is focused on work or the emails/texts he is receiving. It isn’t easy. I’m thinking about all of the cardboard cutouts that are set up in the seats of sports arenas these days. It makes you feel like there are people there, but it isn’t the same as having people who are truly present.


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