By my mid-30s, I had achieved more in my professional career and in my personal life than I ever thought possible. Professionally, I was a highly regarded business development professional. Personally, I was building my community and forging lifelong friendships, and my now-husband and I were building our lives together. And when Joe and I married, we wasted no time and our family quickly grew: first by two cats and then by two kids! Both my professional life and my personal journey had momentum. But like all working parents, I had to figure out how to balance my demanding professional life with my growing family. Although I don’t always maintain equilibrium, through trial-and-error and some great advice I’ve gotten over the course of the past 25 years, I have figured out some ways that help me achieve that work-life balance we all crave. I’m not perfect, but I’ve put together a list of 5 tips that work for me. I’d love to hear how these tips are working for you or any others you might have! Comment below or send me a message, I can’t wait to hear from you.
1. Be present by feeling the good
Today’s realities mean constant pivoting. I am a pivot-master because I feel the good in what I am doing and who I am doing it with.
I bet that you find yourself pivoting in 30 seconds to your work meeting from barely getting the kids on the bus; or pivoting in 60 seconds from coffee with a friend whom you haven’t seen in months to the check-in with your boss. It’s a necessity, but the back-and-forth can create angst and frustration. After all, pivoting is change, and humans are notoriously stubborn about change.
But change, or “the pivot” doesn’t have to feel bad. Instead of focusing on the negative—late, tired, frustrated, overwhelmed—feel the good: Excitement for the new deal, the pride that your friend shared their book proposal only with you, honored that fellow-parents voted you class parent, and accomplished that you helped solve your customer’s problem. Feel the joy that comes when your daughter wants to confide in you about her awful day. Feeling the good helps you be present to what you are doing and who you are doing it with—and being present is key to achieving balance!
2. Pick one non-negotiable, daily self-care practice
Exercise is one of my critical forms of self-care. It’s something I really enjoy, and it keeps me grounded. Whether your self-care is yoga, kick-boxing, walking, meditating, cycling, or reading, commit to it. Make that one self-care item your daily non-negotiable. Self-care can go a long way, and it’s much better to take your frustration out at the gym or on the pavement than it is to take it out on your family or your co-workers. If possible, make your self-care be screen free. Your next creative, ground-breaking idea might just be a walk around the block away.
3. Structure your time
Compartmentalizing is not easy. Particularly when your phone blows up every few minutes with Slack notifications, email, and text messages. But compartmentalization is the key to putting boundaries around your family time and your work time. Try color-coding your Google calendar and sticking with the time blocks you set for yourself or try software like Trello to help schedule the hours in your day. I put my phone away—upstairs in my bedroom drawer—from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and I put it away again from 7 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. If you schedule your days as if they were meetings, then you may be better able to manage the dual responsibility of work and family.
4. Receive the love your community wants to give you
Sometimes it is easier to give than to receive. But sometimes you just need some help! And the beauty of receiving is that it helps you and allows others the joy of giving. So say “yes, please!” when your neighbor invites your kids over for dinner so you can prepare for your “must nail it” meeting. Or when your colleague offers to bang out the first draft of the report so you can get to your daughter’s playoff game. Or when your partner suggests they make the lasagna (albeit not quite as good). Just say yes. And better yet . . . invite your community to help you. Ask your fellow parent to take your kids home to play, or your sister-in-law to manage the logistics of the party that got away from you. Just like you, your community wants to give. Let them.
5. Maintain your boundaries and learn to say “no”
I used to say “yes” to everything—with all the right intentions! But then I was so overcommitted (and nowhere near a state of work/life equilibrium) that I would inevitably let someone down, usually myself. As someone who has worked through and continues to work through childhood trauma, I have had to learn how to set all sorts of productive boundaries in my life. A lot of it has come down to recognizing my own state of being and what I need to do to recharge. Unfortunately, that sometimes means saying “no”. It’s okay to say “no” when you need to because by saying “no” to one potential commitment, you’re saying an emphatic “yes!” to something else (even if that something else is some much-needed downtime). Put all your positive energy into that “yes” and don’t worry so much about the “no” because that thing you said “no” to is probably someone else’s “yes!”