(This post originally appeared on the blog of a wonderful non-profit, Women With Drive, founded by my friend Molly Cantrell-Kraig)
Some people call me an expert, but, really…I’m an explorer continually searching for new and better ways to help people manage their work and life.
This 15 year journey has led me to write a book, Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You, start a blog, and help companies to become more flexible in the way they work. But Molly Cantrell-Kraig’s invitation to write a guest post for Women With Drive (Twitter @WWDr1ve) was a unique opportunity to stop and reflect upon what I’ve learned.
For this post, I challenged myself to pick out the “Top 10” work+life fit tips that I think every woman should know. It wasn’t easy, but here’s my list. Remember, I’m an explorer on a never-ending quest to learn more, so I really want to hear what you think too!
- There is no “balance,” only the unique way work fits into the rest of your life day-to-day and over time (for more check out The 10 Tyrannies of Work-Life Balance).
- Contrary to popular belief, you can choose what your work+life fit looks like about 70% of the time (which is way better than 0%). Nothing is ever perfect and even the most careful plan will change. But being thoughtful and deliberate about the choices you make and actions you take does ensure that more of what you want does happen in work and in the rest of your life. Make 70% your bar of success…not “perfect.”
- Managing the way work fits into your life is a practice not a destination. You will never “have” work+life fit. All you can do is try to make your “fit” the best it can be based on where you are now.
- Keep a calendar with all of your work and personal “to dos” in one place so that you have a complete picture of your life. And if you aren’t comfortable adding your personal goals and responsibilities to your calendar at work, keep your personal calendar with you on the job. Glance at them both a couple of times throughout the day to stay on track.
- Take 20 minutes each week to sit quietly and ask yourself what you need more of/less of in your “fit” and make it happen. Small actions make a big difference. A cup of coffee with a friend. A half an hour walk. Lunch with your daughter. An appointment to get your hair cut.
- Understand that it’s about managing your time and your energy. Taking care of yourself requires time but it gives you more energy…so it’s a net gain. Women tend to feel guilty about taking time to sleep, eat well, and exercise especially if it means we’re not focusing on others. But, a good night’s sleep, a healthy meal, and a yoga class, for example, prepare you to give even more (and better!)
- Make your back up plans in advance so you are prepared and less frazzled. For example, who will take care of your child when they are sick, or if there’s a snow day? Who will walk your dog if you have to stay late at work? How will your mother get to the doctor if you can’t take her?
- Prioritize managing your personal finances. Having a handle on your money—no matter how much or how little you have—is critical to your long-term work+life fit success. When my parents divorced 35 years ago, my mother had very little money and few job prospects, but she was always careful and deliberate with what she had. By the time she retired, she’d paid off her house and car and was able to truly enjoy retirement. That careful management, even when there wasn’t much, gave her choices in the long run. (Great resources for women: Manisha Thakor, Daily Worth)
- Don’t let pride stand in the way of asking for help from your community, your friends, and family. We are not superwomen. Ask. Someday you will pay it forward.
- Finally, guilt is a corrosive energy-waster. Stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone has different circumstances; therefore, they will have a different work+life fit. Maybe you can’t make it to your child’s school events as often as another parent because you have to work. That doesn’t make them right, and you wrong. It’s about making it all fit together the best way it can…right now.
What advice would you give to other women to help them more successfully manage the way work “fits” into their lives?
Did you find the information in this post helpful? If so, I invite you to also visit my Fast Company blog and connect with me on Twitter @caliyost. Also, you might be interested in our NEW! How-To “Make Flexibility Real” Newsletter and LinkedIn group.