Debunking the Myth of Work-Life Balance

Sleep deprivation is a common and very relatable ailment of new parents. So spare a moment’s thought for what it was like for international business productivity expert and bestselling author, Debbie Mayo-Smith, raising six – yes, six children.



Here’s the clincher – she counts twins and triplets as part of her beautiful brood. It’s enough to make the faint-hearted dive under the covers and stake out permanent territory in the safety of their slumber zone. But not Debbie. In fact, it was her coming-of-age moment on all fronts. While many struggle through the early postpartum days trying not to put dishwashing liquid in the washing machine, Debbie came into her own, professional and personally.

A native New Yorker, but now a patriotic Kiwi, Debbie’s career took off on Wall Street while working for AIG before her husband Steve whisked her off to New Zealand. While making the impossible possible, she realised her organisational hacks could pay enormous dividends for businesses – hence her foray into public speaking and change management which she is now renowned for as top enterprises across the world bring her into the fold to problem solve and pioneer essential change.

Today, Debbie is in the top seven percent of motivational speakers worldwide and is in great demand for in-house training. Hers is a business built from scratch and she has put people and productivity at the heart of it. As the rearer of six humans and the go-to efficiency guru for thousands worldwide, it’s safe to say Debbie knows people; what makes them tick, how to help them fulfil their potential and how to help them conquer productivity issues.

She says the common afflictions plaguing people in business are feelings of stress and being overwhelmed. Debbie empowers people with tried and tested advice given freely and frankly and with an often-elusive sense of honesty. One of her first pieces of advice is to stop romanticising the notion of work-life balance. “It’s complete bull. There is no work-life balance. It’s a choice of what you are willing to eliminate, delegate and do better. That’s the reality.”

She also says to be mindful of robbing Peter to pay Paul – particularly when Paul isn’t that important. Case in point is the value of abandoning unrealistic expectations such as achieving a pristine abode at all times. If you’re aiming to achieve this, then it’s more than likely you are taking time away from the things that actually matter most to you – like family and children.

“Accept that it’s OK for home to be a bit of a mess. Find help and accept it. It doesn’t have to be expensive. We had English language school au pairs living with us in the early years. It was only $90 a week, but we had help and kept our sanity. Also, there’s an art to saying no and it can be learnt, to help ease taking on too much.”

Interestingly, one of Debbie’s key pearls of wisdom is something that the western world grapples with – gratitude. Appreciate what you do have and how far you have come. Take time every day to practice this until the ritual becomes your reality.

Debbie Mayo-Smith is a headline speaker at this year’s Hire Association of New Zealand ‘People & Profit’ Conference, 3-4 July at Claudelands in Hamilton. She joins a compelling line-up including Mike King and Nigel Latta.



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