Welcome to the 12 Days of Balance. We are all overwhelmed during the holiday season, so each day, I’ll celebrate another aspect of finding balance in our lives to try and help you get through this stressful time. Plus, my little musings on life and random thoughts. I’ll add to this page daily so keep checking back!
DAY 1: DECEMBER 7
Jordana Holovach is on The Balance Project today. See how this mom of 3 made the transition from Founder and Director of nonprofit organization Jacob’s Cure to go back to her roots of doing branding and marketing.
And, in case you missed it, check out my POPSUGAR article “10 Tips for a Better-Balanced Holiday Season.”
DAY 2: DECEMBER 8
Executive recruiter and blogger Lindsey Mead is on The Balance Project today. I love this line, “I still wonder what my life would look like had I leaned in at that point.” I often wonder that, too.
Holiday Tip: Assess every opportunity that comes your way this holiday season. On top of everything else on your plate, is this new opportunity worth the hassle of rearranging your schedule and fitting something else in? I totally leaned in to an opportunity that came my way last minute to record a podcast in NYC tomorrow afternoon. I was excited by the prospect and moved stuff around, rescheduled other things on my calendar, etc. I just got an email that they are rescheduling my recording to another date. I’m definitely relieved but I don’t regret having tried to fit it in originally. Sometimes things are worth it even if they do cause a little more stress. As a friend of mine said today, over the holidays, you just have to give up some sleep. Perhaps.
DAY 3: DECEMBER 9
Today on The Balance Project I feature Kelley Spoljaric. She is the Co-Founder and CMO of ComfortCam which is a wifi-enabled baby monitor that allows you to see your child from anywhere in the world from your smartphone and tablet. Kelley is emblematic of a lot of the entrepreneurs I have featured on The Balance Project. There are so many advantages to being an entrepreneur when you’re a mother of young children (flexibility! no boss!) but there are also challenges in that you can never turn work off. It’s always there. I actually believe that the traditional model of work-life balance can’t always apply to entrepreneurs. At least not at the beginning. I also very much appreciated how Kelley, in “Anything else you’d like to add,” said that I was “doing my part to support working women.” Thank you, Kelley! Not being coy—but I never really thought about The Balance Project that way. You made my day.
GIFTS! Need ideas? Or will you have time to relax over the holidays and need some good reading? Check out this incredible and comprehensive Top Books of 2015 list by Great Thoughts Great Readers. I’m so honored that my second novel The Balance Project is on that list! My two favorite books I read this year are All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. And I’m so excited about my “to read” list for over the holidays:
- Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
- Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
- Grow Your Value by Mika Brzezinski
- The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
- Come Away with Me by Karma Brown
- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Ha—a little ambitious. We’ll see how many I can get through!
DAY 4: DECEMBER 10
Barbara Reich, a professional organizer and the author of the book Secrets of an Organized Mom, is on The Balance Project today. You will love her list of hacks. There’s definitely something in there for everyone. I do #2 but, ugh, not #1. Because, of course, there’s Scandal. I’m a sucker for tips from professional organizers because essentially creating balance in your life is organizing your life.
DAY 8: DECEMBER 14
Those of you paying attention will notice that I skipped 4 days of balance. That was because I was being balanced. On Friday I had a holiday luncheon and a holiday dinner (which were both wonderful!) and in between those I was just doing life, so I didn’t have a chance to post. And then there was the weekend. And well, I’m back now and that’s all that matters. I may have been a little ambitious.
On Friday I featured film producer Ria Ruthsatz on The Balance Project. When asked what the best advice she ever heard on balance was, Ria said that at a company she once worked for, a fellow employee told her there was no such thing as work-life balance, that you can’t have 50% life and 50% work, that it doesn’t work that way, that it’s *all* your life. Ria’s response: “That really changed how I thought about my career, and I began focusing on what I wanted out of my life and how my work might fit into that.” Yep.
I saw a friend who I don’t see much and she proceeded to complain to me how crazy busy her life was. In the presentations I give and in some of the articles I’ve written, I talk about the five main things I’ve learned from writing my novel The Balance Project and doing The Balance Project interviews. A big takeaway is to stop glorifying busy. Of course, we as women have busy lives. Not a lot we can do about that. But there’s a difference between normal busy and crazy busy. And being crazy busy does not, as some women think, make you look and feel important. Being crazy busy makes you look and feel frazzled. I know there are times of the year when being crazy busy is required—accountants have tax time for instance—and there are circumstances for some women where being crazy busy is just life—single moms with 2 jobs and kids. But, for the majority of women, if your default is crazy busy then either A) accept it, embrace it, realize you’re contributing to the insanity with your choices, stop complaining about it, and build a structure for your life that will help support that. OR, B) stop whining and change something. Especially for the women who have the resources to change it, I have very little patience for the whining.
DAY 9: DECEMBER 15
This afternoon I’m going into the city to make a presentation to PricewaterhouseCooper’s New York Metro Women in Tax group. And I’m really looking forward to it. Every time I make a presentation I walk out so energized and inspired. I am always touched by the feedback I get from women who tell me that something I said resonated with them or that they need to make changes in their life and now they’re inspired to do so. I’m surrounded by all this balance stuff all the time and I’ve instituted a lot of the practices I talk about in my speeches so it seems second nature to me. But I realize that a lot of women haven’t been exposed to strategies and techniques that can help them balance their lives. So there’s that.
In these very corporate companies there’s a lot of talk about flex time, working from home, etc. I see the pros and cons of all. For someone like Loredana who commutes an hour and a half each way, she can gain 3 very productive hours every day she doesn’t commute. Whether she uses that as personal time or dedicates that to work, that’s a seriously effective way of taking advantage of company policies. But there are also women for whom that doesn’t work. Perhaps they don’t have a great set up at home and it’s hard to get work done, or they have young children at home, or they want to keep that demarcation between work and home. It’s why corporate policies are nice and all, but true balance comes when companies realize that every woman’s—person’s—situation is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to making work manageable. On the other hand, it’s very important to note that not all careers and not all companies are going to allow work-life balance. Women have to know going in what they’re setting themselves up for. You want balance at an accounting firm during tax season? That’s not going to happen. And that’s not good or bad. It’s just an example of going into a career or a company with your eyes wide open.
DAY 10: DECEMBER 16
Cherylanne Skolnicki, a life coach, speaker, and writer, is on The Balance Project today. Her answer to one of the questions resonates deeply with me: “By and large, we do an abysmal job of intentionally setting priorities and making choices aligned with them. We get caught up in what everyone else is doing and think we should do it too. I want three things in this chapter of my life—to be an incredible wife and mother, to make a meaningful contribution professionally, and to have a thriving sense of personal well being. Aligning my time with these priorities is how I stay on track.”
I once heard on Oprah radio (when Oprah was on SiriusXM) a guest of Oprah’s (not sure who it was) advising this technique. I did it and it was such an enlightening exercise: Figure out what your top three priorities are right now. Mine are exactly the same as Cherylanne’s. Then, when opportunities come your way, you filter them through that sieve. Certainly not black and white, i.e. root canal doesn’t meet the criteria but sometimes has to happen. But, for instance, this is how I’ve been able to turn down opportunities to get more involved in nonprofit organizations.
Since high school, I’ve been very involved in charities. But lately, that involvement has had to take a back seat. I just don’t have the time to dedicate to an organization. I know in future phases of my life, that will return as a big part of my life. I’ve given myself permission to say no to those opportunities—however badly I feel about it—because I’m not willing to edge out my other three priorities. I can still give money and volunteer my time but as for taking on a leadership position? Not for me right now.
Perhaps this is a good exercise for you to do as the new year approaches. At least give it a think-through in the shower. It might clear a lot up, simplify your life, and help you gauge opportunities that come your way.
Check out this great blog post by Cherylanne: “You are already doing enough.” Good tips in this one!
DAY 11: DECEMBER 17
Have you watched the series of videos I did on balance for Working Mother Magazine? Here are the different topics:
Also, in case you missed it, Anne-Marie Slaughter penned a new piece for The Atlantic called “The Failure of the Phrase ‘Work-Life Balance’.” It’s worth a read (and not as long as “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All“).
DAY 12: DECEMBER 18
We made it! 12 days. Now stop reading this and go enjoy the holidays. And be sure to take some time for yourself. Please. As a parting gift, some inspiring quotes: