Whether you call it work-life balance, work-life integration, or an overall full and happy life, it can seem daunting to achieve in a society where people brag about the horrible hours they spend in the office and even the resulting damage it does to their home life (missing soccer games, not taking that family vacation, etc.). Did you know that in some cultures companies consider employees that work at all hours incredibly inefficient, rather than praising their unhealthy behavior?
Speaking of efficiency – you know what they say? If you want something done, give it to a busy working mom! The skill set learned as a busy working mom is the same skills you need to achieve a full, happy, balanced life: make time for things important to you, take charge, and don’t waste time.
Make time for things important to you. For me, Family and Career are important. And so are Community, Friends, Network, and Health. They all get my time. So, whether it is dinner time with your family, being on a volunteer board, an early morning high-intensity work out class, etc., strategically plan time for things important to you.
You’d be surprised how much you can get done if you prioritize what is important to you. And, you would be surprised how much fuller your life can be! For example, in the past couple weeks, I have easily found time to have several family dinners (with candles), host non-profit board committee meetings, coordinate a group non-profit event at Harvesters, help my daughter with 2 scholarship essays, attend several of my son’s swim meets, go to parent-teacher conferences, attend a fun work dinner party, go to a KC Tech event, do dinner and a movie with girlfriends, have friends over, sleep in, watch Netflix, exercise, go to the doctor, find time for lunches and happy hours with my network, serve communion at church, attend a marketing club dinner, go on a date with my husband, help friends network with potential employers, attend a baby shower, organize our neighborhood Brew to Brew relay race, book a vacation, attend a professional development session, conduct a real estate referral, write a blog and be a mentor at the KC Business Journal Mentoring Monday. This full schedule is typical, completely manageable and enjoyable. I want to find time for each of these things. They energize me. I never feel obligated or overwhelmed because they represent what is important to me: Family, Career, Community, Friends, Network, and Health.
Take charge and lead. Here is a secret to not feeling overwhelmed when you have lots of things important to you: take the lead. When you are the leader, you drive the agenda and set the schedule. It is easy to host a board meeting at the office from 5 – 6pm before heading to dinner with friends, if you are driving the schedule (selecting dates/locations/timing that doesn’t conflict with other important things). I find when I drive the agenda and schedule, I am more prepared, better able to contribute, and the happiest. From leading a work project to organizing a neighborhood event to finding time for personal health and exercise – take charge! And, of course, you can’t lead everything. For example, my son is a freshman on the swim team. All moms volunteer, but the upperclassmen moms lead and set the schedule. Funny, but the swim banquet date was added to the schedule recently – and guess what – it conflicts with my networking group (where I selected the date). So, nothing is perfect, but that is ok. I will stop by my networking group and then be at my son’s event from start to finish.
Don’t waste time – be productive. I am impressed with Freightquote, my company of about a year. Generally speaking, we do not have excessive meetings. We collaborate, share ideas, and each area is accountable to do great work. The work process is streamlined, and we are able to move quickly, which is important in our ever-changing industry. I find I am most productive in this environment because I start with our strategy aligned to business goals. This is the first step. It saves mountains of time when you have alignment from the start. Next, it is key to establish the metrics by which your plan will be measured (and gain buy-in). Ex – are you expected to deliver an improved ROI on acquisition efforts by 10%, grow content engagement YoY, etc.? When you understand the goals and measurements, you cut out re-work, misunderstanding, and frustration. I find I have expanded capacity in this environment. It feels great, and allows for that work-life balance feeling! I don’t have that “guilty feeling” of not making progress or feel I am not doing enough. The same holds true for the other areas of your life. When you take the lead and run the committee, make sure it is streamlined and efficient.
No matter what is important to you, make time for it, lead it, and be productive and efficient. And of course, cut out the stuff that isn’t important. Never say “yes” because you think you should. Say “yes” because you want to. Because it is genuinely important to you. And then when you find yourself feeling in charge, happy, connected and fulfilled – celebrate your very own work-life balance!