One of the greatest challenges I've observed for women in senior leadership roles is to find a healthy balance between work and life.
Despite the fact that women are working more, they are still saddled with the majority of care work and household chores. One article in Philadelphia argues that, as a result, burnout affects women the most. For many, it's not easy to prioritize well-being and create a sense of fulfillment at home, all while not sacrificing one's success and career.
An example of this dilemma is a client of mine, a C-suite executive who wakes up at 5:30 every morning to go to the office and gets home around 9:30 every night. She often feels drained, exhausted, stressed and irritable. Although her career has reached a peak and she’s had incredible successes in her professional life, tasks she's expected to do at home are not getting accomplished. Her home reflects her state of mind: a cluttered place that feels too overwhelming to address.
From my perspective, this shows what happens when we neglect certain areas of our life that might not seem as important in the moment, yet have a huge impact on us in the long run. If you're a workaholic, you're likely ignoring the other aspects of your life. But you know you can’t keep going like that if you don’t want to crash and burn. Perhaps you don't know how to turn it off; maybe you compromise your health due to years of stress and lack of self-care, or you don’t have a social life. Maybe, just like my client, simple tasks and errands haven’t been accomplished in months. The constant pressure of not being able to keep up has you wondering about all of the things you’re sacrificing for success, which leaves you feeling like you can't enjoy what you've accomplished.
You ask yourself how you can possibly have success without sacrificing other areas of your life, such as family, friends, fun or your health and wellness. “Work-life balance” are the magic words that transform the way you feel about your life, your sense of satisfaction and your performance at work.
As a leadership and performance coach, I've determined four crucial steps to getting back into alignment to feel more balanced and fulfilled:
1. Remember that double the effort doesn’t equal double the results.
When putting in 80-hour workweeks month after month, you might think that double the effort equals double the results. But that’s simply not true. Once you pass your “sweet spot,” your efforts could even create negative results, which is the exact opposite of what you're trying to achieve. Burnout, feeling overwhelmed and a lack of focus and clarity can easily lead to lower levels of performance rather than optimized productivity. Just like with working out, eating, spending time with your spouse or traveling, too much of anything can result in enormous amounts of stress and a lack of fulfillment.
2. Prioritize balance and boundaries.
This ties directly into the first point. Balance and boundaries are crucial to a productive and fulfilling work-life balance. Each area of your life, including health, home, relationships and fun, has to be nurtured on a regular basis. Once you withdraw attention from any one of the most important areas of life, you’ll quickly feel out of balance and frustrated. For example, would you be able to enjoy financial success if your health were in danger? Would a thriving career serve you in the long run if there were no loved ones or friends to share your accomplishments with?
The same is true for alone time: Always running around and taking care of work, family and friends without dedicating time for yourself is not a sustainable solution. Set nonnegotiables on your personal time to stay in alignment — maybe a daily hour to yourself, a day on the weekend spent with your kids or a weekly romantic dinner with your spouse.
3. Schedule your personal life.
Create a schedule for your personal life. Schedule time for fun activities with loved ones and yourself to increase your chances of following through with that picnic, salsa class or date night. Set limits on emails and work-related calls after hours. Make it a point to set boundaries between work and life, even if it’s a challenge.
4. Let go.
Let go of control and self-doubt. Being a woman in business or corporate can be challenging, and many women feel like they need to prove themselves of being worthy of their position and title. External pressures (and even a few internal expectations) can drive you to practically overdeliver and overperform. While this can be incredibly rewarding when starting a new career, I believe holding onto the idea that you might not be enough can cause you to feel stressed, even when you schedule time to relax.
Trust that you’re doing your best, and trust in others that they are able to do a great job when you delegate. In my experience, being able to relax as a leader has a massive impact on the energy of the whole team and how safe and empowered they feel. Fear drives more fear. Focus on your core competencies, and let go of the rest.
Creating balance in your life and enjoying not only the personal but also the professional benefits as a result of working less — and differently — can feel like finally releasing the brakes and effortlessly moving forward. Success does not have to be sacrificed in order to achieve a higher quality of life. Take a step back, and reevaluate how you operate and create success on your own terms. Leverage your strengths, and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Understand that more effort does not equal more success and achievement. The trick is to find the perfect sweet spot for you to thrive in all areas of your life.