With more and more women, including myself, working outside the home than ever before, achieving work-life balance can sometimes feel like trying to chase a unicorn. As a busy divorce attorney, TV personality, author, wife, and mom (not necessarily in that order), I have a lot of priorities needing my attention, and my undivided attention at that.
I will admit it has not always been easy to strike such a balance. Through trial and error, though, I have come up with a few hacks for ensuring my day is not only productive but that I am also not running myself ragged because, most importantly, I want to enjoy my life. Here are my tips.
1. Let go of the guilt. That is a must. Guilt weighs a lot and will continue to weigh you down if you let it. It took me a long time to acknowledge that I can only do so much. At times, someone will feel disappointed, whether it is my husband because I am unable to make it home for dinner, or me if my two-year-old daughter, Sofia, falls asleep before I can read her a bedtime story. If either of these scenarios occurs, I make sure not to beat myself up and, instead, devote time to them in other ways, like eating breakfast with my family the next morning or having a lazy morning in Sofia’s bed reading stories to her out loud.
2. Understand you are not perfect. Isn’t that the truth! And guess what? No one is perfect, not even those moms who appear to have everything together. I assure you they do not. They just may be better at hiding it. We all have our shortcomings and recognizing that burning the toast, missing an appointment, or forgetting a friend’s birthday does not make us bad people. We are human and, consequently, screw up. Even me.
3. Just say no. Saying no used to be a tough one for me because my nature is to do for others and please people. When my schedule became more hectic, occasionally I had to say, “No, I cannot attend” or “I am unable to make it tomorrow. Can we pick another day?” As busy as I am, I cannot do everything for everyone and need to prioritize to whom I am giving my attention and when. If I spread myself too thin, nobody wins, particularly me.
4. Take work home. That is a tricky one and can be a slippery slope if you are not careful. I am. There is nothing wrong with telecommuting or bringing work home with you if you can separate work and family life, and not let either overrun you. That means cell phones get turned off during meals and you communicate to your loved ones when it is time to get some work done, bringing me to my next point.
5. Communicate. No matter what the relationship – whether with your family, employer, or co-workers, it is important to keep the lines of communication open. Let those at work know what your availability is and what constraints you may have. People cannot assist you if they are unaware of your issues. Remain open with your spouse and children as well, reassuring them whenever possible that even though you may not be available, they are always on your mind and you will give them the attention they deserve as soon as you can.
6. Ask for help. Occasionally, crises will arise. Maybe you and your husband have an early morning meeting, and neither of you can drive your kids to school. Or perhaps you are traveling and will be unable to make your daughter’s ballet recital. If you find yourself in a bind, enlist help and do not be shy about it. Ask another relative – maybe Grandma or an aunt – to attend the recital, or another parent to drive the carpool. You would be surprised to see how eager others can be to get involved with your children or help out if they can. Just be sure to reciprocate whenever you are able, so you maintain healthy relationships with those beyond your inner circle. Remember, they may need you just as much as you need them.
7. Make family time sacred. Life passes in a flash. I cannot believe my little Sofia is already walking and talking up a storm. I love our time together and want to enjoy as much of it as I can. So when I am with my family, I am with them – in body and mind. Recently, my husband and I took Sofia to see "Sesame Street Live," and we had a blast. Despite being incredibly busy with work and a few exciting new projects (details to come!), I spent the day completely focused on them. My priority at that time was my family, and my attitude showed it.
8. Find good childcare. Finding reliable childcare, whether a nanny or daycare provider, is imperative not only for allowing you to focus on work, but to give you the time you may need to devote to yourself, as well as alone time with your spouse. As much as we love spending time with our daughter, my husband, Bill, and I set aside time for just us – to frequent our favorite restaurants, try new ones, and travel. Without our babysitter, our lives wouldn’t be as productive or full.
9. Get organized. I know you have heard this before, but it is worth repeating. If you do not create a schedule for yourself, you will not be able to create the balance you want and need. You will always be chasing the proverbial ball and under stress. Nowadays, with the technology we have available to us, it is easier than ever before to have our daily, weekly, and monthly planner (with reminder alarms!) at our fingertips. Take advantage of the resources you have, and you will quickly find time you never realized you had.
10. Stay disciplined. Of course, anyone can create a schedule. The trick is to be disciplined and stick with it. I do have one caveat, and that is to remain flexible. Being too regimented will create the exact chaos and resultant pressure you were trying to avoid.
At the end of the day, achieving balance means finding out what works for you and what does not. So feel free to experiment! Even if you tip the scale from time to time, the good news is, you can always tip it back.
Vikki Ziegler is the star of Bravo TV’s Untying the Knot, the founder and CEO of DivorceDating, Author of The Pre-Marital Planner: Your Complete Legal Guide to a Perfect Marriage, and a co-founder of and partner at Ziegler & Zemsky, LLC. To learn more about Vikki, visit www.vikkiziegler.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.