Monday, September 26, 2016

Can I really have balance in work and in life?

Work/life balance can be a constant struggle for many people, especially moms. When I had my daughter almost 13 years ago I was working as a Trainer and Sales Manager in the Pharmaceutical Industry. I struggled to find that balance, struggled to stay confident at work and felt an incredible amount of new mommy guilt. Here’s how I described my search for balance in the book, “Lose That Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom”:
 Balance is one of those overused words that I believe can be next to impossible to achieve. Balance implies all things are neatly in line and flowing together nicely. I think of images of ballerinas posing perfectly on toes with hands in the air. In my world it is more like a seesaw constantly in motion as I try to avoid dropping balls flying out of control over my head. 
Today I work as a Clinical Therapist as the owner of Maximize Wellness Counseling and Coaching LLC and meet many women with similar experiences feeling the  anxiety and stress related to balancing work and family. A few months ago I was chatting with a friend, Jill Donahue of EngageRx about the Pharmaceutical Industry today and we realized just how common this challenge is for women and that got us thinking about how we may be able to make a positive impact on others. Together we knew of successful leaders who could provide insight and best practices that we could learn from as well as share what we have learned through our own experiences.
That led us to create a survey aimed at learning specific challenges and solutions around balance and harmony and how gender may or may not be a factor for Leaders in the Pharmaceutical Industry. If you are in reading this and would like to be a part of the survey, you can click here, we would love your input!

After hearing from just under one hundred successful women (and men) from all over the globe we came to a few conclusions that I’d like to share today.
Top challenges:
  • Pressure to work 24/7
  • Home duty management
  • Guilt
  • Stress
  • Energy
  • Commute
  • Travel
  • Time Management
  • Pressure to work less from loved ones at home.

Here are the top five tips we learned to help you increase balance between work and life despite those challenges: 

1. Ask for help!

A quality of a strong leader is the ability to know how and when to delegate. Not only does it help lighten the workload for you, but if done well, you are providing excellent learning and growth opportunities for your employees.This is not just important at work, but also at home. So many of us do things at home that can be delegated out. For example, does you child really care if you made homemade cupcakes for the party at school? The reality is, your child wants cupcakes. That’s it. Staying up all night in order to get the perfect homemade option could easily be delegated to the local bakery or supermarket! The same is true of other chores at home. I bet your kids can start doing more around the house for themselves. Grade school kids are perfectly able to pack lunches the night before or help with the dishes or vacuuming.  Not only are you lightening your load, you are teaching them valuable life skills. For wonderful resources on the power of giving kids chores you may want to check out one of my favorite books, How to Raise an Adult” by Julie Lythcott-Haims.

2. Adjust expectations

Are you a perfectionist? What happens when you fall short? Do you feel guilty and get frustrated with yourself for not meeting expectations? Have you considered those expectations may be unrealistic to begin with? We often create expectations that no one could live up to and yet we feel like a failure when we don’t succeed. "Perfect" is not a realistic option. Click here to read an article in The Digest Online on Expectations vs Reality for new moms. For a light example, when I was a kid, I swam on a swim team every summer. I loved the swim team. As a mom I never signed my children up for swim team because they attended a full day camp all summer long and swim team was just not an option. I felt tremendous guilt over not giving my kids what I thought was an essential summer experience. The summer I changed careers I was so excited to have my then 9-year-old swim on the local swim team but she wanted no part of it. She basically said swim team was “your thing mom.” Huh, all that wasted energy feeling guilty about something that really did not matter to her.  A wonderful resource on how perfectionism is Brene Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection

4. Own your agenda

Time management is key to success. One of the toughest, yet most important lesson is to learn when to say no. We often believe that success means doing it all and all at once and that means say yes to every project or request that comes our way. It is so important to identify and keep clear your personal and professional boundaries. For example I was asked to give a workshop to new moms at BabiesRUs. What a fantastic opportunity for me to get out in front of other women and talk about self-compassion, confidence and resilience for new moms! Unfortunately my role as a therapist and speaker has me out of the house working many evenings. I had originally agreed to speak at two different BabiesRUs stores in NJ each month and my nights were filling up fast. I recognized I had over-scheduled myself and canceled one of the opportunities in order decrease my nights away from home. Learning to say “No” can take practice, but it is critical to stay in control of your time and your own agenda.

4. Self-Care

This one is great in concept, but really who has time, right? There is this misconception that in order to be successful we need to self-sacrifice. The reality is, if we are not taking care of our physical, emotional and mental health, we are less able to be successful in all aspects of our lives. That doesn’t mean just exercise and nutrition, but also taking time to have fun and engage in activities that benefit our emotional and mental health. Perhaps it is practicing mindfulness or joining volunteer organization or being party of a club or sports team. How many of us put off having fun until weekends or vacation? It does not have to be that way.  Taking care of yourself is about increasing your level of happiness, which positively affects your overall health, productivity and resilience to better balance work and life. For some great resources and books on positive psychology and self-care check out some of my favorite authors, Shawn Achor, Kristen Neff and Christine Carter.

5. Define Success for YOU

One of the biggest problems that can cause unrealistic expectations is social comparison. Whether it is from spending so much time on social media or comparing our careers to others at work, we can lose sight of what we really want for ourselves. Social comparisons create a distorted of other people, what they are experiencing and doing and can ultimately lead to creating unrealistic pressure and expectations of how our lives should be. What is considered success for one person is completely different for another. Identify for yourself what success really means and then look at how to get there. Understand that not everyone will have the same idea about what you should or should not do when it comes to your career and your life. Having a strong mentor focused on your personal and professional goals can have a positive impact on your ability to define and achieve success.

Finding that balance between work and life is a challenge, especially for women who are expected to be everything to everyone at work and at home.

So the question becomes, is it really possible to find harmony and balance. In our survey of successful leaders over 80% said yes it is.
As a clinical therapist and coach I now agree that finding that balance can be difficult, but not impossible. I hope the concepts shared today can help you find that balance and harmony in your life.
For more information on workshops, books, services or to set up a free consultation check out Maximize Wellness online.