How working until 11 p.m. can be "balanced"

Work while this is out
photo courtesy flickr user Martin Cathrae

(MoneyWatch) What's the best way to manage your time? How can you build a big career while enjoying a full life?

Lately, I've been studying the time logs of high-earning women who happen to be mothers to understand these questions. Since many women make a point of adjusting their schedules to maximize family time, I figured we could all learn from their strategies for optimizing work and life.

One of the most interesting ones? Recognizing that if you don't aim to see your family every day, you can sometimes have a more balanced life than if you do.

Here's what I mean. Say you need to work about 50 hours a week. If you work five 10-hour days and have a reasonable commute, you might always be arriving home from work around 7 p.m., just in time to put your young children to bed. Yes, you're seeing them every night, but you're not spending much time with them.

But what if you let go of the idea of seeing them every day? If you have some control over your schedule, you can realize there's little point in getting home just for bedtime. Why not work through bedtime two nights per week? Work late -- very late if you can. Get as much as possible done, working until 11 p.m. if you must.

On the other days, get home much earlier. Leave work at 4 p.m. Enjoy the evening. You've put the hours in, and now you get to play, have dinner and do the whole bedtime routine, rather than racing in for the last story. By thinking in terms of 168 hours (a week), rather than 24, you get much more quality time overall than if you try to do certain things every day.

Have you ever worked late in pursuit of work-life balance?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Martin Cathrae