I never believed the hype that women have to choose between a career and a personal life to live their best life. You shouldn't, either. Leave behind the frustrating and useless idea of "work-life balance" -- because there is no such thing as "balance." Balance is a myth! Instead believe that you can have a successful career and an extraordinary personal life.
For me, I had to get to a crashing point before I realized that something had to change. Early in my career I reached the vice president level in my company and thought it would all be easier. In fact, it was horrible. I was missing deadlines, personal appointments and my kid's school activities, and my team at work was the lowest performing. Everything was a mess. I started realizing that I had to change something or I was going to go crazy.
Should I quit my job and be a full-time mom? I loved my work and I loved my family, but was there a better way to do both? I also noticed that many of my women co-workers were disappearing. They were throwing in the towel and either leaving the workforce altogether, or working part-time. I was determined to find a better way. I refused to believe that I had to choose between having a career and being a good mother and wife. I wanted both! I worked hard to have both!
My answer to shattering the balance myth: To integrate. I have three strategies to share with you on how you can integrate your life.
1. Be one authentic person.
You can't be one person in one environment and then switch to a completely different person as your situation changes. Try to be authentic at home and the office. If your work is just a "job," then it will feel like it is pulling you away from your personal life. If you work in a place that you are passionate about, then you are integrating what you love with who you are. Bring your family and friends to the office so that they can see what you do and where you spend a lot of your time.
Integrating instead of balancing allows you to bring to the office the best person that you are at home and vice versa. There is nothing to balance because you are just living!
2. Combine your work and personal calendars.
I used to keep two separate calendars, one for home and one for work; but, I was missing work deadlines, my kids' activities and other events. So I combined the calendars, which caused me to integrate my two lives. It's one life and one calendar!
After you put all of your personal and professional appointments on one calendar, your first reaction may well be shock; the overlap is daunting. But this will allow you to see the big picture and make conscious choices. When you have a conflict, chose one obligation and then do not re-negotiate with yourself. Be fully present at the choice you made. Don't think about what you should have done, or could have done. You made a choice, now give it all that you have.
3. Make room on your calendar.
We all have said to ourselves, "I just need to learn to sleep less. Then I will have enough time." There is plenty of evidence that proves that is not a good idea! There are many time management techniques; the best one for me was to set time limits on activities. The trick is to learn to walk away. For example, if I plan one hour to create a work presentation, I stop at that one hour and don't spend extra time trying to make it perfect or negotiate with myself. I do the best I can and then walk away. The same applies with cleaning the house -- learn to walk away.
We can choose to keep telling ourselves that we are not "balanced" or we can live by setting our own expectations. Expectations that meet our needs, desires and dreams. Don't let others set expectations for you, set your own. Our lives are not equations that need to be balanced. Focus instead on integration and being present.
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