I'm sitting across from my girlfriend right now. Makeup? F*ck it: it's a Saturday; her fiancée's out of town and I just don't feel like it. In other words, we've swapped sweats for spandex, and then switched back again... and our hats? Let's get real: They're the best option when one hasn't washed her hair.
My girlfriend's got a wedding to plan and a business to run. Meanwhile, I'm packing for another work trip and am writing this. We both just finished/shared our Strategic Life Goals for 2015. Lord, I love color-coded spreadsheets.
In summary, we're living the Silicon Valley secrets that 12 female entrepreneurs and women in tech spilled last week for being fantastic, for being pragmatic, for being alive. I loved the piece because it shared a truth I hoped would emerge: That work-life balance is bullshit. Work is life, and life does require work... and that choice to command one's constant shifting of priorities is not only empowering, it's what makes life rich and fabulous.
So, to honor the ladies and the passage of yet another holiday season into a brave new year, I've ask eight women to share why -- and how -- they, in lieu of a New Years Resolution, have decided to tell balance to go to hell in 2015.
Make sure you read until the end. Sh*tty first drafts ARE for everyone.
1. Set Thoughtful Boundaries.
To maintain balance, I set boundaries. Then, items can get completed (or not) during their allotted time. If they don't, I leave them for the following day. Initially, this was a bit of the frameshift for me: Not continuing to push through something until it was done, but rather, to be okay with leaving and coming back to it.
I start my day with about an hour of of academic or start-up work. Then, when I actually head to the office, it's pretty much all patient-related: Seeing patients, paperwork, reading studies, designing programs. Then, I go to the gym, and that's the end of my work day. I make time to work out, make dinner, talk to my hubby and sometimes, to craft. I'm lucky to have a husband who steps up around the house: helping me make dinner, do the floors and so on. We both know that if we skip the gym because we are "too busy," it won't be great for our stress levels.
Of course, there are times where there is bleed-over. Sometimes, I take start-up conference calls during the day (because who wants to meet at 6:30?). Very rarely, I go into work at night when I'm on call. But overall, my simple practice of allotting time to those specific tasks allows me to be mindful and fully present in most moments, which helps me feel like I'm not juggling as many things.
2. Jettison the Trivial to Save the Sanity of Your Soul
From crunching numbers and running a wine auction to catapulting four boys' dirty socks, integrating my life as a nonprofit director and single mom is no easy task.
My life was once of the picket fence variety. Now, it's a variety show with duties and delights twirling around me like the plates you see circus performers spinning.
Practically speaking, I know the midnight shift crew at Safeway, since that's when I grocery shop. I joke that they are some of my best friends. At 12:30 a.m., life stories seem to flow like milk and honey, particularly in the produce aisle. I no longer know my kids' friends' moms, and hanging out at the local coffee shop no longer happens every day. Instead, I get to know moms in developing countries, whose deaf children long to hear the sounds of their names being called from the next room.
YOUCANTHAVEITALL arrives at the door the minute you decide to have a family and a career. It knocks on the door and says, "Hello, you who used to be PTA mom extraordinaire, employee of the year, family goddess of the century. From henceforth and forever more, every moment of every day will be fuller than full. You have no choice but to accept. After all, this is what you chose."
A full life demands focus, attention, intention and letting go. Let go of the perfectly set table, the immaculately pressed shirts, the can-you-top-this birthday parties and the rotating business attire calendar. For this reason, the holiday season can make the already-saturated life a recipe for disaster -- or bliss. Choose the things that nourish, fill and add to your life. Know what you can influence. Dismiss the things that drain, diminish, and subtract.
-- Tracy Scandlyn, Executive Director: Let Them Hear Foundation
3. Don't Be Afraid to Walk Away... And Do Something New
As a mom of two little ones (ages 3 and 5), I totally get the benefit of integrating work with life. As an entrepreneur, I made a conscious decision to venture into new opportunities that would allow me the flexibility to be more present for my kids. This is part of the reason I stepped away from the grueling work of owning a bakery chain after more than eight years to start a family photography business. With the ability to set my own schedule and not have to manage physical retail locations and staff, I could spend more time with my family.
Recently, I launched a kids' creative site that has become the cornerstone of all the things I love: Baking, photography and being a mom. The crux of hello, Wonderful is inspiring parents to be creative with their children. With my own kids, these kinds of activities and projects have led to bonding, learning and experiencing things through my children's eyes. They are proud of the things they've made, and I make it a point to showcase them around the home.
I do think that, as a mom and an entrepreneur, you can examine what you love to do and re-invent your career with your children as the lens for your career aspirations.
-- Agnes Hsu, Founder & CEO: hello, Wonderful
4. Shift Your Definition -- And Open Yourself Up to Be Surprised
Before I had kids (and when I was planning to have kids), I always thought about work-life balance based on the quantity of work. In other words, how much time I would work, how much time I would have for non-work and how that ratio might change with kids and impact my career.
What surprised me after I had kids was how much more I thought about my career, not less! I hated being away from my babies, which meant the time I spent away from them needed to be worthwhile -- in every sense of that word, not just financially. Suddenly, I discovered a counterintuitive definition of work-life balance: One that was not centered around the quantity of work hours (though, of course, that's always an issue), but around quality of work and quality of time spent on work.
There is no way to create more hours in a day, but doing work that is interesting and meaningful energizes me to get so much more done in all aspects of my life. (When you love your work, you're nicer to your family *and* you need less sleep!) Finding and creating work that I'm proud of has been a large driver in becoming an entrepreneur.
-- Ching-Yee Hu, Founder: Sprogs
5. Start a Business Your Entire Family Can Embrace
My work and personal life are definitely blended, because Love & Hummus was inspired by my daughter and is a reflection of my values.
I started my business when my daughter was 3 years old, so she doesn't remember a time when Love & Hummus wasn't a daily (and usually nightly) part of our lives. She's present at many events and farmers markets with us and enjoys giving out samples of our products. She spends plenty of days at our kitchen, and now demands a say in the design of the patio and garden in the cafe we're opening this winter.
This works for our family because we embrace that Love & Hummus is part of our life. We all contribute in our ways to nurture it. I feel very grateful and proud of what we are sharing with the world.
-- Donna Sky, Founder & CEO: Love And Hummus
6. Rank Quality Over Quantity
Due to the proliferation of mobile and tablet devices, social media and the 24/7 on-call nature of Silicon Valley, work-life balance can be a true challenge. There have been many evenings after work where my husband and I have found ourselves spending time together while simultaneously glued to our phones (my husband is also in tech, so we both share the same affinity for devices and an obsession for work). I often have to consciously put the phone out of reach and tell him to do the same.
I found this problem to be particularly severe last holiday season, when I was simultaneously working in my role as Senior Content Manager at Marketo (a very demanding job) and writing my first book, Lead Generation for Dummies -- arguably both full-time jobs. And as a result, I was constantly connected to my devices and I found that I was not doing a great job with my work-life balance. I may have been making time to spend with friends and family, but I was distracted and not engaging in a connected way. I was going out to dinner with friends and checking my email, watching a movie with my husband and constantly on my laptop or simply in my own world recounting my book deadlines during a conversation.
Once I realized how detrimental my actions were to my personal relationships, I instituted the quality over quantity rule -- it's not always about how often you are spending time with your family, it's about the quality of that time spent. Sometimes when you are career-focused or say, writing a book and working a time-intensive role, free-flowing quantity isn't as much of an option. Instead, you have to carve out time and set boundaries for yourself. What good is it if you spend five hours with your family but are glued to your phone? It is much more meaningful if you can spend two hours with them fully engaged and fully involved. Turn your phone off, put it in another room and make sure the time you do have, especially around the holidays, is precious and without the distractions of the Valley.
-- Dayna Rothman, Sr. Content Marketing Manager: Marketo
7. Nourish Yourself, Regardless of the Season.
The holidays brings a lot of things -- time with loved ones, changes in work as the end of the year draws near and a shift in weather. Between the treats at holiday parties, crazier work hours and chilly reasons to avoid that run you planned on doing, staying centered and healthy can be a real challenge! Nourishing yourself emotionally and physically is essential to being your best self and feeling balanced in a whirlwind of obligations, overindulgence and sedentary temptations. Don't neglect basic needs!
Time to yourself is so important, and enables you to be the ultimate colleague, mother, friend, partner and party guest. Being realistic about your commitments and selecting the ones that are most important prevents you from running on empty. As a woman, it can be easy or automatic to want to say "yes" and please everyone. Sometimes, saying a polite "no" is the only way to give true priorities your all! Rest, be mindful of your energy levels and see the bounty in not trying to do absolutely everything.
Staying physically healthy is a whole other story in winter -- decadent dessert, drinks and colder weather can add up and wreak havoc on how you feel. Be thoughtful about feeding your body the things it really needs: sugar isn't great for you, but being active and embracing whole foods can keep you grounded in a land of Egg Nog and feasts (and wearing the same jeans). Go ahead and enjoy reasonable doses of what you really love -- mom's fudge may be your ultimate holiday experience! Just keep balance in mind here too -- eating only indulgent foods means you're not getting all of the nutrients necessary to be at your best. Make sure to eat veggies, drink lots of water and take a walk with a friend after meals to maintain your health while getting into the holiday spirit. Aim for 10,000 steps a day and eat energizing whole foods to keep yourself on track and out of a sugar coma!
Making good choices for your mind and body daily yields a very satisfied you at the end of holiday season, and you're worth it.
--Emily Harborne, Sr Strategic Relationship Manager -- BountyJobs
8. Apply the Shitty First Draft Concept
Anne Lamont, author of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, encourages writers to pen a "shitty first draft." The idea, says Lamont, is that once you get the initial blueprint down, the latter account will be an improvement. And then the piece will get better and better until it's good -- and then great.
Women put so much pressure on themselves to be amazing every day. To look firm in our skinny jeans. To cook non-mushy risotto, wake up with dewy, flawless skin and in my field, compose inspiring prose on a daily basis. Nope. Never happens.
This is the year that I apply the concept of shitty first drafts to all areas of my life. I will wake up with bags under my eyes and laugh, knowing that they will de-puff enough that I can walk my girls to school sans sunglasses. I will attend the skinny jeans workout class -- yes, this is actually what it's called -- suffer through hundreds of squats and be proud that I only shirked a few. I will attempt a risotto again knowing my sweet husband will smile through each gelatinous bite. I will write and delete and ask questions and delete again and churn out a shitty first draft. I will do this knowing that a shitty first draft, after all, will get better.
-- Molly Blake, freelance writer.
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