In today’s hyper-connected, increasingly competitive business world, the phrase work-life balance can feel more aspirational than attainable. I think this is especially true for women professionals.
In my quest for the perfect yin-yang work-life balance—enjoying family, friends, hobbies and activities, while growing my career, exceeding my professional goals and adding value to my company—I leverage my strengths as a family- and career-minded woman. If, like many, you struggle with this seemingly aspirational goal, here are five tips that I have successfully used to balance my schedule and achieve the (seemingly) impossible.
1. Get Organized
Start with a to-do list. Write down the tasks you need to accomplish by day and by week. Even by month and by quarter! Give yourself deadlines and prioritize. Make it a habit to create your list on Mondays, launching into the week on a positive, proactive note. Then, update it daily. It’s rewarding to see tasks crossed off the list at the end of a long day. And, it’s easy to refer back to what you’ve accomplished on the inevitable project calls and status meetings. Maintain a degree of flexibility, but if your original to-do list is based on solid strategy and prioritized accordingly, you’ll find there’s a reason some things are on the list, and others are not.
2. Just Say ‘No’
I think this is easier said than done, and, more difficult for women than for men. Women want to do it all, in their personal and professional lives. We prefer to say yes and be viewed as hard working, rather than say no and disappoint a colleague, peer or boss. It’s important to prioritize and to remember that we can’t do it all, by ourselves. If you’re adamant about not saying ‘no,’ try something like ‘not right now,’ which allows you the space to come back to the task in the right sequence, when you’ve completed other higher priorities and can give the task the quality time and attention it deserves. JDA’s Laura Browne offers some good strategies on this topic in her October 25 blog, “Know How to Say No.”
3. Ask For Help
Many of us think that asking for help is a weakness, but in reality it’s a strength. Asking questions creates a learning experience, but it also demonstrates self-awareness and generates respect between the knowledge seeker and the knowledge holder. Increasing what you know about your company, its products, services and strategies only makes you a more valuable employee. Delegation is another form of asking for help and is a lesson in leadership. Trusting your colleagues or team members with key tasks on a project can be scary, but it creates a trusting relationship and frees your time to focus on other things, at work or at home.
4. Establish Healthy Habits
It goes without saying that making time for yourself, activities, people and places you enjoy is essential. Establishing healthy habits is about nourishing your mind, body and soul. I suggest taking at least 30 minutes every, single day for yourself. Go for a run. Make tea and read a few chapters of a new book. Take your dog for a walk or meet a friend for coffee. Take a long weekend. In the office, take a lunch break! So many of us eat breakfast in the car and lunch in front of our computer that taking a short break can have lasting impact on our attitude and spirit. Research also shows that employees who work out during lunch experience an overall performance boost of 15 percent, so there’s business benefit too.
5. Celebrate Your Achievements
In women’s quest for professional parity, we can lose sight of work-life balance because we’re consumed with navigating our careers to the top. With that in mind, I challenge you to showcase your successes and celebrate your achievements. You won’t look boastful if you share an accomplishment with your boss or teammates. Many times, they will echo your sentiment and you’ll help foster an environment that focuses on strengths and success. So, accept recognition when it comes your way and enjoy the moment you’ve earned. I further challenge you to pay it forward so other women professionals can learn from you. Inspire women to take credit when credit is due as we continue to move the needle for diversity, inclusion and leadership in today’s business world.