Brad Feld, Partner at VC firm The Foundry and long time supporter of Eric Norlin’s events Glue and defrag, recently presented to TEDxBoulder about his personal strategy of taking a once-a-quarter “week off the grid”. Full video below for those with a spare 8 minutes or so.

The upshot is that one failed marriage and nearly another on the cards, Feld decided that taking one week a quarter completely off the grid to go someplace with his significant other is the approach to keep the relationship on an even keel. Seeing the presentation motivated me to write a post that I’ve been thinking about for quite sometime now. Maybe it’s just me but Feld’s talk is an indication of just how warped we’ve got in this modern age.

I’ll be the first to admit that my schedule is kind of crazy – I’m up at 5am every day to cut out a chunk of work – this year will probably see me fly well over a quarter of a million miles and spend altogether too much time away from my nearest and dearest. But trying to ameliorate that by switching off for a week every three months just seems crazy. Why?

  • Firstly because one week a quarter is less than 10% of our time. Feld is saying, to an extent, that he’s prepared to live a life that causes deleterious impacts on his health and his relationships and, in return, he’ll reward himself quality time one week a quarter
  • Secondly because disconnecting is a wholly artificial exercise. Work/life balance is, in my opinion, only real when it’s ongoing and built into a daily cycle. While Feld would perhaps argue that his one week a quarter routine is his version of a macro cycle, I’m not convinced

Now don’t get me wrong, Feld’s a great guy (who, admittedly, really needs to come running with me at defrag to get into shape) and I’m not dissing him in any way, rather I guess I’m asking an open question about the world we live in and what we consider work/life balance looks like.

Being a parent really puts this stuff into focus – the disappointment your kids show when you miss their sports day, class play or (heaven forbid) birthday is palpable, but all of us face these issues every day in our work life.

Keen to hear how others deal with this balancing act.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • I completely agree that it’s not a once a quarter exercise. In fact, I’ve written extensively about this – my quarterly week off the grid is merely one of the things I do. Take a look at some others – like four minutes in the morning – at

    And – yes – I’d love to run with you at Defrag. I have had a back injury for five months and it’s been hard to keep the belly at bay. I’ve done 15 marathons in the past few years on my quest to one in every state by the time I turn 50. I’m healthy and running again.

    • Hey Brad, thanks for the post, and the link.

      You’re one up on me re the marathons – I promised my kids I’d do a full marathon by the time I’m 40 (I’ve done a bunch of half marathons but no full yet) – I’ve got one more year to meet that goal. Awesome, there’s a bunch of people who are keen on a run at defrag and having you as Il Patron will only increase the appeal! See you soon

  • The answer is simple, but difficult. Postpone your ambition for promotion, fame, glory, or whatever until you have finished raising your family. Each generation has to learn that we can’t have our cake and eat it, too.

    • Rick – there must be a middle road that allows progress whilst family raising…. no?

      • Yes, but that’s where the agony lies. 🙂 You do have to look after your interests or you’ll devolve into a beige, joyless parent with nothing to interest even your own kids, but ambition breeds more ambition. And success breeds more success. And pretty soon you view your family as an impediment to your success. It’s kinda like the curve on a basketball … you want to stay well away from the point of no return.

  • I think there is a middle road. Just takes time/effort to stay on it. I’m struggling right now to stay on it with family, work, wife, and church activities.

    Love Brad’s idea of the 4 minutes in the morning.

    See you at Defrag.

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