Can Successful Women Achieve Balance in their Lives?
Work, work and more work.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former U.S. State Department official and now a Princeton professor is the author of the The Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. I briefly caught her interview on The TODAY Show last week and it spoke to me because the past few weeks I had been pondering the very same question. Actually, truth be told, I have been doing more than just pondering; I've been actively trying to achieve a better degree of balance in my life.
I have the great good fortune to work from home which in and of itself, is a blessing. For the past 12 years, I've worked from home, usually 10 - 12 hours a day, some days much longer. I've been doing it for so long, that I had lost sight of how little else I do! That is until my youngest son Tyler, who is 12, innocently commented that I work from the moment I wake up until it is time to go to sleep. Initially, his innocent comment sparked a bout of intense guilt, but once the guilt subsided I realized he was 100% accurate and that something needed to change.
Can I Have It All?
I asked myself, "What's Missing? I answered "Time with my family & friends, health and wellness, and interests I am passionate about" and finding time to create my own happiness. I wondered "Can I be successful in my career and still have those things as well?" Surely there has to be a way for me to have it all.
First I decided to set some goals. Over the past 12 years of sitting at my computer, I've managed to accumulate 25 extra pounds. So goal number 1 is lose them. Next I realized I have 0 hobbies that I'm passionate about so goal number 2 is find a hobby. Finally, I tried to determine why I was working so much. It wasn't my employers forcing me to work, I realized, it was me! So goal number 3 is quit working each night at 7:00 pm, learn how to be comfortable with leaving the to do list unfinished and reconnect with my family.
With my goals freshly set and clarified I set out to set some action items that would help me towards achieving my goals. Decisions with no actions aren't decisions at all!
I've belonged to a gym for years, but like many successful business women, rarely found the chance to go. The intention is always there but working out is always at the bottom of the to do list and the first thing to fall off of it. So if health and wellness was to be a part of my future, I had to move it to the top of my list. I decided to wake each morning at 6:00 am so I could walk/run 5 miles with my mother-in-law. This tiny commitment made it possible for me not only to work on losing the 25 pounds, but also to connect with my dear mother-in-law, Marjorie.
I committed to trying new activities to expand my horizons. I had decided to try painting, Tai Chi, Belly Dancing and I'm returning to writing. So far I've painted my first picture, see inset and please don't laugh, I've already decided I'm NOT passionate about painting, I was proud of myself for trying however! I've found a Tai Chi group and several Belly Dancing ones - those activities are next.
Finally, I set an alarm on my phone at 7:00pm that says "Quit Working". Despite the initial agony it caused me to quit working with things left undone, I've found strategies that make quitting at 7 less painful. I now make a fresh to do list at 6:45 so all the items left undone are fresh items for the next day, leaving me a sense of completion. The first few days, I had no idea what to do with myself. Then, I talked to my coach, Matt Haddad and he suggested I double up on my goals in the evening, for instance work on the weight loss and the reconnect with my family by bicycling with the kids and my husband. What a success! My youngest son was thrilled that we had family bicycle night.
Keep reading to join me on this journey to prove that women can be successful in their careers and yet achieve balance in the rest of their lives.