A Gents Guide to Work/Life Balance

Men have been the breadwinners for their families for most of history. With that responsibility comes the burden of balancing their working lives with their personal lives. Between familial expectations, cultural expectations, and internal struggle with self-expectations, most men have simply put themselves last and accepted an unbalanced life. They accept satisfaction from being the person who can do it all for others. 

As society has changed and cultures have shifted, the responsibility on the man has eased and it has allowed for men to consider balance as something achievable in their lives without guilt. But, can work/life balance be achieved without the degradation of the role that a man plays in society? Is chasing greatness better than chasing balance?

The Stages of a Man’s Life

A man’s current stage is his primary factor in determining a work/life balance. Each stage has different priorities and flexibilities that shape the balance that a man does or does not enjoy. All stages can be differentiated using something called The Four Burners Theory, which means that a man can devote his time to any of four categories: family, friends, health, and work.

If you consider the four categories as burners on a stovetop, then each one has an equal capacity for individual success as the other burners. However, they all draw from the same source, which is time in the case of man. To be successful as a man in life, The Four Burners Theory posits that you can only use three of the burners at the same time. That is, one of the priorities of a man must be turned off. However, to be very successful in life as a man, you must turn off two of the four burners.

Young Man

A young man moving into higher education or their first job as an adult has spent most of his time focused on fun. Working and education time is looked at as a means to an end, with friends and health the priorities. Health might be a priority if only out of vanity or the luxury of youth. 

  • Young Man Work/Life Balance: 30%/70%.
  • Burners On: Friends and Health.

Professional Man

A professional man has moved on from school or a first job as an adult and has taken on some responsibility.  He has a better idea of what he wants to do, or at least what he is planning to do, and has yet to gain the restraints of a marriage or family. He still has the freedom of time to allot to his career, if he chooses, without neglecting relationships that he may have with others. Life experience with friends is still a priority, but those experiences are more costly and therefore require more work to afford them. 

  • Professional Man Work/Life Balance: 70%/30%.
  • Burners On: Work and Friends.


A father is a man who has more responsibilities at home and thus, must re-balance his life from that lived as a professional man. Time demand at home is an increasing priority, but so is the responsibility of caring for others. Taking care of his family is a father’s top priority and it shows in the new balance of his life. Additionally, he is also starting to move away from being focused on his career and looking more toward having a happy and healthy family. He probably doesn’t get to focus as much on the family as he would like, because his role as a provider is deemed more critical. 

  • Fatherhood Work/Life Balance: 60%/40%
  • Burners On: Work and Family.


A man who has hit retirement age has raised his children and is near the end of his working life. His balance has shifted more from providing to existing. His responsibility to himself has grown stronger, but at this stage, it is usually realized too late that the wrong burners have been overworked, and the correct burners have been turned off for too long. 

  • Retirement Work/Life Balance: 30%/70%.
  • Burners On: Family and Friends

To be successful in life, a man must determine what success means to him. If he follows The Four Burners Theory, he must know what it takes to succeed and what he must deny himself of to achieve greatness in life. 

That, perhaps, is the true balance man must seek. Not the equalization of time between work and life, but the equal attention given between greatness at a family level, and greatness at a personal level. 

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

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  1. I think these stages are detailed ‘fairly’ however, it’s important to note that “Health” wasn’t recognized in the last 3 at all. If you don’t invest in your health – you aren’t able to provide and/or do anything to support the people you love. It may seem (or feel) selfish to dedicate time to your own health – but if you don’t it’s at the loss or sacrifice of time, life, support for those you love. Further, I’d advocate that continual investment in friends is important throughout your life.

    Now, that said… is it hard to dedicate “quality time and attention” to each of these areas? Hell yes… but you get ONE life and you need to capitalize on all the opportunities, and relationships you can (family, friends).

    I would advocate that you can always carve out a %age of your ‘burners’ to HEALTH, and FRIENDS.

  2. Hi Stanton. Thank you for your comment. I completely agree with you that health should play a vital part of a man’s life, as it provides us with the ability to do what is needed for the other three burners.

    My point in this article was more about how most men currently live their lives as a balance between work and life. I wasn’t really proposing a best way, but your suggestion is definitely a critical part of being a capable man.

    A percentage of your burners can always be focused on health and friends, but there is a finite supply of gas for those burners. If you want to be the best at business and family, you simply cannot supply the needed gas to be best in health and friendship too because you simply don’t have the time to devote to being great in those areas. That doesn’t mean you still can’t carve out time for friends and health, though, for sure.

    I think a follow-up article on the value of health and friends to a man’s life would be a great way to address some of your points.

    Thanks again.

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