Despite decades of feminist mantras, having it all and doing it all isn’t a realistic goal. But when you’ve got the right tools, doing a lot and doing it well is.
Women are told we can achieve anything and everything and all at once. It’s true: We shouldn’t let anyone (including ourselves) put limits on our potential because of our gender. Crushing your career role, and being the mom, wife, friend and volunteer you want to be is attainable. But while inspiring (but often-vague) quotes and catchy phrases on coffee mugs and t-shirts have their place, successful and sustainable work-life integration is built on more than punchy platitudes. Beating the burnout, overcoming the overwhelm and saying “buh-bye” to toxic levels of stress are achieved by being intentional and consistently following a handful of practical, actionable steps.
Learn the habits that will help you wear your many hats with style, and why sharing what you learn with other ladies isn’t just nice, it’s necessary.
Identify tasks on your plate that someone else on your work and/or family team can (or should) handle and then hand them off.
- Take advantage of tech. Use shareable digital lists and calendars as well as team project management apps (like Trello) to share and co-manage duties with co-workers.
- Consider giving your kids more responsibility, like additional house cleaning or meal-making chores. Bonus: You’re teaching them skills they need!
Let Go of Perfect
Don’t confuse perfection with excellence; they’re not the same thing.
- Stop comparing yourself to others; limiting social media is a huge help here.
- Keep some specific motivational sayings that have meaning to you at the ready by putting them on your phone’s lock or home screen.
- Be open and honest with other women in your circle about your failures and insecurities; it can help others, but best of all, it frees you from those burdens.
Savor Self Care
You have to make and take time for yourself, and the key is consistency. While it may include a facial or massage, proper self-care is about more than an annual spa day. It’s about healthy habits.
- Make promises to yourself and keep them. To help, schedule 10-15-minute breaks in your day using your preferred digital calendar method and include an alarm to remind yourself.
- Set self-care appointments (nail services, therapy sessions, basic check-ups and more) as far in advance as possible and also immediately add them to your calendar.
- Block off an entire weekend every month with nothing that must be done.
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Keep a food journal and note how different items you eat make you feel — Do you have more or less energy? Do you feel satisfied or still hungry (and hangry)? — so you can make more informed decisions when fueling your body.
While the phrase “setting boundaries” sounds like you’re fencing yourself off from the world, the opposite is true. When proper boundaries are in place, you’re better able to establish and maintain close and healthy relationships with others.
- Clearly communicate your boundaries to others so you set the right expectations.
- Start saying “no.” Root yourself in the idea that your priorities are as important as the needs of others, and you’ll learn to say no without shame or guilt.
- Be honest and assertive when you say no.
- Respect others when they say no, too. Also, be firm about keeping work in work hours. Commit to no email or work texts at night or on weekends.
Organization requires planning and time management.
- Even if you rely on a digital calendar, consider getting a large desk calendar, too. At the start of each month, write each day’s top to-dos and scheduled appointments (including those selfcare items!) in its large daily blocks. It gives you a big-picture view of your life so you can see where you’re over-scheduled (and remedy it or at least get prepared) and where there are free spaces you can take advantage of and better spread the load.
- Make the most of whatever hour or two each week that’s quieter for you and schedule it as time to return lower-priority emails and check over the upcoming week’s schedule to get ready or make needed adjustments.
Your destination is a place where both your home and work lives are manageable, enjoyable and productive. Your map to get there? A list of goals informed by a list of your priorities.
- Use the S.M.A.R.T. format. Make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to your stated priorities) and Time-Bound.
- When you hit your goals, set new ones. This trains you to make continual goal-setting a habit.
- Always be flexible. Review goals often and tweak when needed. It’s your list; if circumstances change that affect your priorities, change your roadmap too.
- Write your goals down. Multiple studies show that you’re more than 40 percent more likely to reach goals and make choices in keeping with your priorities when you do.
- Use your priorities as the foundation for other actions, like self-care plans, time management and drawing boundary lines.
For most of us, the most attention-grabbing and time-sucking distractions are digital.
- Set time-limit restrictions on your social media apps. Don’t look at your phone when you first wake up and for 30 minutes after you wake up.
- Lose the IRL distractions, too. Look around and ask yourself, is this activity or this relationship in line with my priorities and goals? If not, dial back the amount of time and energy you give them.
We love the “from the boardroom to the ballpark” analogy to describe today’s working moms but think it needs more follow-through, so here’s some actual advice for transitioning between roles.
- Use your drive home to decompress. Fire up your favorite music or a podcast, but don’t pick one with a “work” theme; choose pure entertainment instead.
- Don’t arrive home hungry; it increases the odds of snark if there’s a challenging situation. If you didn’t make time to eat at work, be sure to have a healthy snack and some water on the way home (something packed with protein is a good choice).
- Change clothes first thing. Shedding work attire and slipping into something comfy will help you mentally put on a different hat. And if you’re often running to an actual ballpark (or piano lessons, etc.), keep some beauty and fashion essentials in your car so you can always freshen up and change from work mode quickly and easily. Mouthwash, a brush, a ball cap, wet wipes for make-up fixes and a light jacket or cardigan to replace a suit blazer plus casual shoes to don instead of heels are all good items to have on hand.
Maximize Your Leadership Moxie
- FLEX YOUR MUSCLES: Understand and use your strengths. Know your limits and respect them. Make time to work on weaknesses.
- INCREASE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Self-awareness and deeper empathy for others are skills that can always be improved.
- GO WITH THE FLOW: Stick to your priorities and goals, but don’t be so rigid that you’re thrown into chaos by change. Embrace the opportunity to think on your feet and improve your resilience.
- BE SOCIAL: Fostering authentic relationships — with active listening and thoughtful responses — is the foundation of productive networking that allows you to increase your influence.
- FIND YOUR TRIBE: Surround yourself with like-minded people and leaders you admire, but make sure they’re as supportive of you and your priorities as you are of theirs.
Women-to-women mentoring is valuable for both mentor and mentee. Here are the top reasons to make the time for a mentoring relationship.
- Sharing struggles and triumphs lets you unburden yourself and possibly gain different perspectives on challenges, leading to better solutions.
- Sharing skills helps you continually hone them; leadership skills in particular are often boosted in the mentoring process.
- Building a new relationship means you’re also building a new layer of support for yourself.
- Experience is the best teacher. Allowing a female mentor to gift you with her “been there, done that” knowledge is a smart career advancement step. Several studies show those with work mentors are up to five times more likely to be promoted.
- A mentor can be a strong source of continual encouragement and empowerment that cultivates the confidence essential to success.
Check out our feature on incredible Central Alabama women in business!
Jennifer Kornegay works with the rest of the CentrAL INC! team to plan and create the articles and content for each issue. She is also a freelance writer and editor with work published in national and regional publications.