Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”

By the way, looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.

No. 105: Nancy Easton, Wellness in the Schools Executive Director

Age: 49
Where I live:
 New York City
Job: Co- Founder and Executive Director, Wellness in the Schools
Kids: A daughter, 11, and two sons, 8 & 14

Nancy Easton speaker LunchLineHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Everything. I feel like I have spent most of my career trying to figure out how to have better balance. I am still shifting and adjusting. Shifting from running a school to running my own non-profit gave me more flexibility. While the level of responsibility didn’t change, when I created something of my own from scratch I could essentially build a reality that worked for me, like finding an office space only ten blocks from my kids’ school, or establishing company values that support flexible hours for working moms like myself.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
Depends what “it” is. I have spent a good many years learning what it means to be peaceful with “it.” That may mean passing up career opportunities or making choices about where I choose to live. I like to not think about these decisions as making sacrifices but as learning to adjust and in finding the beauty and peace in the choices I make. Life is all about making choices and we have to live loud with the choices we make so that we can have it all—no matter what it is.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
My husband often gets a very small percentage of me. He deserves more.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I have always been pretty good at anything related to health and wellness—at organizing meals for my family and at keeping up with my own exercise (because I need it mentally).

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance?
My iPhone. You laugh? What did we do before our entire lives and our organizational systems fit into the palm of our hand?

Seriously, I am a big planner and scheduler—I teach others how to map out their family meals and how to work within a pattern in order to simplify the process of getting healthy food on the table, even when incredibly busy—so I better have that one down!

I also use my runs (and other exercise opportunities) to flesh out work and life issues—either in my own head or by bouncing off running partners. I am fortunate to have had (and continue to have) the most amazing mentors and sounding boards in my female running partners.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker?
 I get advice daily from friends and mentors. Years ago my cousin told me to switch to online banking—simple advice that changed my life!
From your mother?
 My mom constantly tells me to stop doing so much. I don’t think I ever listen to her, but I come by it naturally.  She is non-stop!
From your spouse? My husband is really smart in that he doesn’t give me advice but I learn by watching him. He is very present and I try to be more like that, especially with the kids. I learn more and more that I am ultimately more effective if I stop the multi-tasking and focus better on the task at present.
From your kids? My kids teach me everything I know about technology so I can be more efficient!

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
In my garden. I have become obsessed. Or, taking a cooking class. Or, getting a massage. Or, acupuncture. You get it. I need more of those hours!

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Knowing more at 20 would have robbed me of too many stumbles in life that were all part of shaping who I am. Life is about living and failing and hurting and picking up the pieces. Life is about hearing and touching and feeling. If I knew more at 20, I would not have listened as carefully or felt as deeply or failed as miserably in order to be who I am today.

Okay, but I do wish someone had told me that saying “no” is okay. I mean that not just for the reason you think (although it would have been great to know), but in all relationships. I spent a good deal of energy, worry, and time on trying to please others.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
By 60, maybe I will learn to say “no.”

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Everything. Seriously.

Truth is, I am oddly fond of house work. When I was first out of college and living alone in NYC I preferred to spend my 23k salary on good food and fun experiences. I would spend 1/2 of a weekend day cleaning my apartment—from laundry (at the laundromat) to toilets. If I had a tough week, at least I accomplished something and could start over with clean sheets on Monday! There was something about starting my week with clean sheets and a clean (small) apartment that made me happy.

Now, just about everything about housework exhausts me!

Favorite books?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

What are you reading right now?
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Trying to keep up with my daughter. Maybe that’s balance?

Biggest vices…
Activity? Massages, acupuncture.
Food? Chocolate. The darker the better.
Website? I don’t think I have ever spent more than 3 minutes on a website other than my own (wellnessintheschools.org) except maybe Amazon. I buy a lot on Amazon. Balance.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
I wish I could survive on less sleep, but that has never been one of my secrets to balance. A few years ago, I started going to bed at 10:30pm and I wake up by 6:30 most mornings. I think I am a bit of a bear when it comes to sleep, too. I store it up. I try to get my consistent 8 hours so when I need to work late and/or get up early, I can still get it done.

On the flip side, when my children were very young and I was first starting my non profit (advice: don’t ever do that!), I would stress out at bedtime, struggling to get them to sleep so I could get to work (I still feel guilty about those years). I would work late into the evening (or early morning) and then get up with them. About once or twice a month, I would just pass out at 8 with the babies to store up on my sleep. Not something I am proud of.

What do you read every morning?
My email, then scan the headline news. Boring.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am very blessed.
My kids: give me the greatest pleasure. I am smiling just thinking of them. They are kind to others, they are quietly (or not so quietly in the case of the third) confident. They live each day with joy and bounty.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Get to” vs “got to.” (Thanks, Dad.) We “get to” live each day. Embrace it and be grateful—whatever it is.


WITSLogoRGBAbout Nancy:
In 2005, Nancy co-founded Wellness in the Schools (WITS) with the goal of inspiring healthy eating, environmental awareness, and fitness as a way of life for kids in public schools. As Executive Director, she has helped WITS grow from three schools to over 60, serving approximately 30,000 students. Nancy has been named a Food Revolution Hero by acclaimed chef-food activist Jamie Oliver, and Ann Cooper, the “Renegade Lunch Lady,” recognized her as a Lunchbox Hero for her dedication to school lunch reform. Prior to WITS Nancy spent 15 years working for the New York City Department of Education, serving as a teacher mentor and, ultimately, a School Leader. Nancy is a founding board member of Girls on the Run Manhattan and serves on the board of Friends of Princeton Track and the Samara Fund. As a lifelong athlete, Nancy has completed several marathons and triathlons, including the Ironman distance triathlon. Nancy lives with her husband and their three children in New York City.

Find out more about Nancy:
Twitter: @WITSinschools
Facebook: WellnessintheSchools
Instagram: @WellnessintheSchools
Pinterest: WITSinSchools



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