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How to balance your personal and professional life

I was actually trying to avoid a CEO position before I took on my current position at Morphic Therapeutic. I have two young kids, and I figured I could work as a CEO in about 10 years once they’d left home. I wanted work-life balance.

Then, I spoke with one of my mentors. He knew a guy in his late 50s that was having a hard time finding a CEO position, in part because people were starting to think of him as “over the hill.”

And that really got me thinking. Was now the right time? Would it be too late to find a position like this in 10 years? Would I be able to spend enough time with my kids if I took a job as a CEO?

I’m not the only one who’s had to ask these questions. Maybe you’re starting your career, wondering how to find that elusive work-life balance. It’s a common concern.

I found the family and career balance I needed — even in a leadership position. So, I wanted to share what it takes to get there.

Earn the balance you want

The best way to gain work-life balance? Be good at what you do.

Think of it as buying yourself flexibility by being incredible at your work. The better you are, the more control you gain over your schedule. The stronger your skills, the more leverage you have in the workplace.

Maybe you want to work from home two days a week. Is that really going to be a problem if everyone knows you’re extremely good at what you do?

So, start thinking about what you can do now to build your skills and gain more leverage. Anything you do now to increase your value in the job market will help you gain the work-life balance you want down the road.

I know it may not help you at this very moment, but it will pay off in the long run.

Think of your future self

Generally speaking, you don’t have as much flexibility when you start your career. You’re still learning the ropes. You’re given a lot of direction and supervision. You’re not yet an expert in the field, and that means you probably won’t have the work-life balance you’re dreaming of.

But as you move up the ladder, you’ll get more flexibility and autonomy.

Your 20s are a time to work very hard. You have the most energy and the fewest responsibilities, so throw yourself into your work.

Unless you started your family early, you have a lot of freedom in your 20s. Capitalize on that by giving it your all. I promise you, all that work will continue to pay off for decades. Create a vision of the balance you’re going to need in the future, and work to make that happen for your future self.

That takes care of the future, but what if you need help finding some balance right now?

Optimize your day

Each day presents its own unique challenges and opportunities, but you have to find ways to make your day more efficient and productive if you want to leave work at work.

Personally, I’m a morning person. It’s when I have the most energy and my mind feels sharpest. But not everyone works that way. I was talking with one of our scientists, and she’s just the opposite.

She spends the hour before she leaves work preparing everything she needs for the next day. Calculations, spreadsheets, experiments—she puts it all in place because she’s drowsy when she comes to work in the morning. She gets everything ready so all she has to do is look at her notes from the night before when she arrives the next morning. And by the afternoon, she’s completely awake and alert. That’s her best time.

This means knowing yourself well and optimizing your day to take advantage of it.

Most of us struggle to find a balance between our jobs and our personal lives at some point in our career. Finding that balance takes time. So, remember to think about your future self and do what you can right now to ensure you have the balance you want later on.

Praveen Tipirneni is president and CEO of Morphic Therapeutic Inc.

This column first appeared at Quora.

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