Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that not all time is created equal. For instance, the hours immediately following a big event won’t help impact the outcome of the event, while the hours before are critical. Recognizing which moments are key turning points is crucial — and determining how to best leverage them is an art of its own.

In school, this applied to exams. In sports, it applied to games and races. In my career, it’s more subtle, but it’s still there. Looking back, I can identify certain discrete periods of time — key leverage points — that were essential to a larger outcome.

For example, back in 2013, I found myself starting a six-week summer internship at a venture firm in Silicon Valley. I knew that jobs in venture capital — internships or otherwise — don’t present themselves very often, so I had to make the most of this opportunity. When I started, I remember telling my husband (then-fiancé) that I would not be making any evening or weekend plans for the duration of the internship. I was going to work my tail off. At the time we didn’t have children, so there was no family trade-off involved. I knew that the next six weeks were high-leverage weeks for my career. This six-week period of time mattered more than other six-week periods would. I wasn’t going to get another trial-run working in venture capital.

Fast forward to today. My husband and I each work and we now have two young children to tend. We can’t each work full-tilt, every evening and weekend. And we also don’t want to be in the (losing) business of deciding who has the more important job. But we can still recognize that there are times when one of us is in a higher leverage position — periods where time is more valuable for one of us than it is for the other. So we honor that, and we tilt in that direction.

I work in venture capital and my husband works at a technology company in sales, focused on a single large strategic account. I may have quiet periods between active investment processes. And, in turn, he may have quieter days or weeks between key deal developments. And then, there are high-pressure periods where we have days or weeks that are crunch-time. When we hit those key days and weeks, we hope they aren’t overlapping. If we’re lucky and they’re not, we try to make space for one another. When the milestone is behind us — be it closing a deal, landing a job, earning a promotion — we can rebalance. Thinking about time in this way — that certain periods of time are leverage points — helps us prioritize our time, be more productive for our careers, and make more time for our family.

Originally published on Medium.com