For years, a buzz topic amongst GAWL members has been work/life balance. How do you find it or, better yet, how do you successfully manage to do everything you want and be happy? We all live chaotic, busy lives, and this week for me was no exception. I found myself juggling many work and professional obligations. For starters, I was facing the end of the 3rd quarter at the office, which meant looming deadlines. I was also busy with GAWL – attending committee meetings and scheduling calls with GAWL Leadership regarding the budget. And lastly, on a personal level, I was finalizing the details of my 25th high school reunion, which I volunteered to chair, and helping my niece make her final choices on college applications. As if these activities were not enough, I came home to a flood in the basement because a pipe burst!
You could say that this was my challenge to Lean In. Many of us have read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and/or the accompanying article in Time magazine. While we may all find our own nugget of wisdom in Lean In, this week, I focused on Ms. Sandberg’s advice to “ruthlessly prioritize,” and the flood in the basement was priority #1.
The reality is that today we constantly face expectations and pressures from all directions. While I do not think that work/ life balance is an elusive ideal, my busy week has caused me to realize that my perspective on the subject needs fine-tuning. My childhood friend Lara O’Connor Hodgson, who is also an entrepreneur, recently stated it best when she said that she does not seek balance but instead strives for excellence. Whatever she is doing, Lara strives to live in the moment, to enjoy the moment, and to be the best that she can be in the moment. For me, seeking excellence in the moment first requires creating moments for excellence, especially moments for friend time.
It is critical for such moments to include time for yourself – make time for things that you want to do in addition to the things that you have to do! If you don’t, you will burn out with both work and personal obligations. This week when my to-do list seemed to run over to page two with no end in sight, I was glad I had been true to myself by scheduling exercise time. I make it a point to keep a block of “me” time on my outlook calendar each week that is devoted to just me. The to-do list will always exist, but scheduling time for myself makes the unexpected basement floods all the more bearable.
While time for yourself is important, you also should create moments that include friends. Never be afraid to call on your support groups – your friends and professional champions that you know. When you are facing a complex task at the office, more than likely one of your professional champions has faced a similar challenge and can provide you with some advice. Other times, you just need to hear the supportive voice of a friend. I know that I needed the support of my friends and champions more than ever this week.
In the end, I was able to manage everything, even if I was a bit overwhelmed until I started marking tasks off of my to-do list, but I believe that the moments that I had to myself and with my friends and champions were key. Once I brought in some help to help resolve the basement flood and the pipes, I was able to focus my energies on other professional and personal tasks. With a lot of time management – that included precious “me” time – and a little help from my support network, my flood began to ebb.