This week’s theme is work-life balance. You asked and our mentors answered.
Andrea Wagsanata asked: How do you suggest busy, young women balance a crazy work and social schedule with health and fitness?
Natalie Uhling: That is a great question! Honestly, you have to do what’s right for your life. Do your clients like to workout? Maybe start inviting them to classes. It’s a more causal setting than taking them to a fancy dinner. You could then go to dinner after the class or to coffee. Also, try waking up 45 minutes earlier in the morning and getting in a little exercise before work… anything is better than nothing. At lunch, you could also take a walk if you are close to a park and then eat later. I know this can be very hard, but you just have to make it a priority. Health is wealth!
Elana Gross asked: Lawyers work notoriously long hours—what is your best piece of advice for work-life integration?
Lois Herzeca: Think about work-life integration over the course of a lifetime, not in the course of a single day. There are times in life when you need to focus single-mindedly on your career and times when you need to focus on family and friends. Try to step back and think about what your personal priorities are at a given time and then try to act in line with those priorities.
Lisa Ritter asked: How can we manage “leaning in” without burning out?
Sheryl Sandberg: You know it’s a really good question, right? Careers are marathons, not sprints. I think that all of this talk about having a career and a life is interesting. I hate the term “work-life balance,” similar to “have it all.” They are words that are only used for women. Other words that are also only used for women. We’re trying to get rid of all of those. We all want careers and we also want lives, it’s not just married women.
I have a great story in my book about a woman who I saw speak on a panel when I was in business school. She said, “I’m so tired of hearing about mothers who need to go see their kids play soccer. I need to go to a bar. I need to go to a bar tonight so I can meet someone so I can get married and have a kid who plays soccer.” The need for a life is legitimate at any stage in your career and I think we have to pick our moments.
I advise people that when you first start a new job, it is a great time to really give it your all. Establish yourself, establish yourself as a great worker, show how dedicated you are, really contribute, and then over time when you’ve established that credibility, carve out a way for your job to work for you and for others. I think there’s a lot of flexibility that people need, and there’s a lot of institutional reform that needs to happen. You can do all of this when you’re running those institutions so get yourselves there, but there’s also a lot we can ask for now and we should feel comfortable asking for what we need at every stage of our careers.
Brianna Vieira asked: How do you balance your work life, successful blog, and your personal life? Do you ever find it difficult to keep up with everything?
Carly Heitlinger: I am constantly working on this. I only have so much energy (and hours) on any given day, so I have to make sacrifices across the board. Establishing and outlining and discovering my priorities has really helped me stay focused on what I need/want to do. Sometimes my priority is committing to a giant project at work, and another day it might be clearing my schedule at night to get through a bunch of blog work. On the weekends, I try to prioritize my personal life—sleep, reading for pleasure, and spending time with friends.
My biggest problem is that I really just want to do too much all at once. I have to remind myself that I can do everything… just maybe not all right this moment. Again, it comes back down to the priorities and figuring out where I’m okay with making sacrifices and compromises.
Tiffany Thomas asked: Does balance really exist? Does one take a back seat at times? Why is “help” (maid, nanny) so taboo?
Tiffany Dufu: I’m not sure what balance is, but I do believe it’s possible to nurture a healthy partnership, raise children as conscious citizens, have a career that fuels your ambition, be physically fit, and be joyful all at the same time. Please note that I did not say your house would be clean, your snail mail would ever get opened, your kids clothes would match—or that they would eat vegetables daily. “Help” is taboo because women have been socialized to believe we’re supposed to be able to have it all by doing it all, when that is far from 2013 reality (it was hogwash in the 1950’s too by the way). Focus on contributing your highest and best use to the endeavors that are most important to you, whether parenting or managing your team at work. Then delegate the rest or let go of the expectation that it will even happen. Put yourself in the front seat and that pesky guilt in the back (better yet, the trunk!)
Emma Sharley asked: What advice do you have for maintaining work-life balance?
Maggie Ciafardini: Not an easy answer and it is a constant exercise of focus and discipline. It’s important to turn off when you get home, but not easy. I find when business is running smoothly and all is well, it is easy to go home and enjoy life. However, like anything else, when there is a lot of challenges and issues, it’s hard to not think about work all the time. Sometimes just being able to put it all aside for a few hours and tell yourself, ” I will think about this later,” is helpful. Sorry there is no magic answer!
Francesca Hall asked: What advice would you give someone struggling to balance their work and social life?
Donna Orender: Balance… perhaps that’s the misnomer right there. Inherent in balance is some sort of equity and I think that puts a lot of pressure on us. Perhaps when addressing how to best manage your life, it is helpful to figure out your priorities and plan to them. Understand that they will change daily, hourly, weekly. When I think about my family and my work, I decide what the priority is and then figure it out. It’s not easy, but it does alleviate some of the second guessing we all entertain.