I am often asked, “How do you do it?” referencing my working full time with plenty of travel, raising three children, being married to a wonderful man going on 29 years, in addition to running, practicing yoga, and participating in church and other community activities. Just reading that list leaves me with “Wow, I’m not sure; I just do.” However, when I reflected on it, I thought about some of the strategies I have learned and employed over the years. These strategies can help working women and anyone committed to have it all while maintaining some kind of balance in our lives.
Balance can be elusive, too, and just the use of the word balance can throw us off because mostly we hear it as equal – like having work and life be perfectly equal. To me, balance is not equal, it just means it’s all working. For example, during my fall and spring “busy” seasons, I put in more effort at work and travel virtually every week. During the summer, I try not to travel Fridays or Sundays to enjoy the short season we have in Minnesota at the cabin or simply having backyard BBQs while my children are home from school. I’m not necessarily putting in equal amounts of time in one or the other, however, prioritizing and maintaining each keeps them in balance. A great analogy is a conductor who is directing his orchestra and emphasizing different instruments. Throughout the performance, the winds may be prominent with the brass or keyboards in the background or vice versa, but they are all playing in concert.
To help orchestrate balance in my life, I’ve developed several strategies including:
- Clearly defining my commitments at work – While my personality likes to remain flexible and be fluid, I have found that maintaining a calendar that includes both work and personal commitments and a weekly work-to-do (WTD) list for the things I own and what I’m going to accomplish in each helps me plan and keep those commitments. I share my calendar and WTD with my colleagues and key events that affect my husband, like travel dates or appointments that may run into the evening and may require child care. Having this structure actually allows me the flexibility to deal with any unknowns that come up during the day.
- Asking for support and help – I realized a long time ago I can’t do it alone (even though I think I should be able to!). Being clear about my commitments allows me to ask for help and set up support structures to keep things running smoothly. Planning my WTD allows me to share expectations or interdependencies with my teammates so they can plan their week (and while not perfect, our system and communication works well!). And, I have lots of resources to keep my home life working and have back-ups in place so we have flexibility when conflicts occur. I am fortunate that my husband loves hanging with our kids and is involved in all the evening activities from piano lessons to cub scouts and even getting the homework done! And my neighbor is our daycare provider although my son thinks it’s a treat to go to Kid Zone at school on days off or afternoons when I travel and my husband needs a few hours before picking him up. Lots of options keeps it all working!
- Being creative about how I can be involved in my children’s lives – I’ve given up the notion a long time ago that being a mom is supposed to look a certain way. Doing so provides the freedom to create how to be active in my children’s lives, support them in their school and other endeavors AND still have a wildly full and fulfilling career. So, I am the webmaster for my son’s Cub Scout Pack and “artist of the month” for his class – both of which I have the flexibility to fit into my schedule. I also establish a strong email rapport with teachers and use student portals diligently, and at the same time, do not miss a face-to-face conference, even if that means requesting a special time. I also communicate the way my children prefer to communicate, which includes texting, Facebook and Snapchat with my college-aged girls!
- Making my health a priority – We are very committed to health at ConvergenceCoaching and support – even encourage – participation in healthy activities. I have found a blend of yoga, running 5ks, and barbell strength classes several times a week helps me maintain my energy, positive outlook and weight. I find it’s easier to keep my health commitments when I share them with others, too, and invite them to participate with me. When I travel with my colleagues, we usually run in the morning before our engagement, and at home I set a goal with my niece this year to run five 5ks. I also have some “me time” like my yin yoga on Fridays where I can totally escape while stretching and strength-building. Even when it’s well below zero, I know getting to the gym will transform my productivity and outlook for the rest of the day.
- Maintaining positivity and prayer – I am also blessed that ConvergenceCoaching is also faith-based organization and we regularly pray for each other. Rallying together provides a strength like no other. This support lifts me up and helps keep things in perspective for all of us, whether we’re being grateful for our many blessings during our peak periods and asking for the strength and endurance to make the difference we’re called to make or when we’re praying for a family member or dear friend who was in a severe accident or facing a potentially terminal illness with the faith that “Through God all things are possible.”
I hope you find one or two of these ideas that you can put into practice to empower you, especially my friends who are about to embark on one of your busiest times of year at work. Or, you may know someone else who is committed to having a big life – a great career, family, and other commitments – with whom you can share these ideas. And, if you missed our A Heathier, Happier You This Busy Season webinar last month, you can access the recording for even more ideas!
What strategies do you employ to maintain balance and live a big life? I’d love to hear them and share them with our readers!
When not working and making a decision on whether to do something I always ask myself whether doing something or getting involved with something is more important than spending time with my son. Most of the time I choose my son.