Are you struggling to manage both work and activism? Welcome to the new balance.


According to The Atlantic, you aren't the only one feeling distracted by the political deluge. In fact, I would be lying if I said that I did not take a productivity hit myself after the inauguration, when 24/7 outrage became the norm. We are all feeling our way towards a new balance of work, life, and activist commitments. The question "what would you have done in the civil rights era?" looms large, and it can make our day-to-day work lives feel very small. 

Big picture, that dissonance is a good thing because it has the power to generate positive changes in what our society rewards, how organizations support the common good, and the overall health of our democracy. However, assuming you still need a J.O.B., you must learn to manage this new balance. It is not suddenly acceptable to miss deadlines, be habitually late, cover up mistakes, or stop responding to communications. 

Here is a six-month plan that doesn't sell your soul or cost your job:


  • Get healthy for the work ahead, both physically and mentally. Give yourself a break to catch up on the rest you need. It's okay. You help no one when you are exhausted, sick, or stressed. 
  • Identify your biggest and lowest-value time suck(s) and do better. (Mine is Facebook.)


Within Two Weeks:

  • Catch up on your existing obligations. If something is legitimately unimportant now, let it go. Otherwise, you should either delegate or do ASAP.
  • Get real about the time you will have for activism, and how you will make it count. Decide whose leadership will you follow. How many hours a week will you commit? 


Within One Month:

  • Assess whether your job stands in the way of the activist commitments you want to make, or whether they can coexist for the long haul. 

  • Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Reflect on what is most important to you, and why. What are you willing to sacrifice, if you must? 


Within Three Months:

  • Begin to shift your work, according to your priorities. You will need to let go of some things and pick up others.
  • Be transparent about your priorities with everyone who will be affected by them. That includes your boss, your colleagues, your spouse, your friends, and your activist network, at least for a start.


Within Six Months:

  • If you know in your heart that your job / career and your activist commitments cannot coexist, prepare for a big change. Run numbers, start saving, have important conversations with your family, and develop a plan B.
  • If you are leading a team, an organization, or an industry, develop a mission-driven strategy to make this new balance attainable for all of your stakeholders. You have the power to help others integrate their work lives with their life's work, and that is a beautiful thing.

Big picture, progressive professionals must come up with creative answers to this challenge at not only the personal, but also the organizational and industry levels. Slacking on the job is not a strategy, but neither is ignoring important calls to action. Make the changes you must so that your work, your activism, and your personal life can exist harmoniously.

Together, we can do better for both ourselves and others.