What do we mean by the phrase, work-life balance? I have found from my years of experience that creating a balance between career obligations and personal responsibilities always seems to be a juggling act. What may seem balanced at one point in life will seem out of kilter at another time.
The Early Years
In my early years of career development, I was quite willing to sacrifice personal time to get the job done. Working overtime was an everyday occurrence as I was trying to establish myself as a competent team player who was vital in the success of our organization.
Young and single, my early career years were spent working for a non-profit history museum. It was a well-worn habit for me, responsible for the educational programming and marketing, to work during office hours to complete scheduling and planning responsibilities, attend meetings and administer training programs. In my briefcase, I would take home the nightly paperwork that I felt compelled to complete—writing my news releases and educational curricula. Big mistake!!
After a few years of this schedule, I began to realize that I was suffocating from lack of quality, personal time and lack of rejuvenation. The organization was no better off having my working these hours, and I found myself wasting valuable time during the day on menial tasks when I could have been doing my writing.
Sometimes it takes others who rely on you and depend on your support to push things to the limits. Being single is one thing. Being married with a son is another. This workaholic schedule worked when I was single, but having a family forced me to reconsider my priorities and make necessary changes. Yes, I worked more efficiently during the day but left the work on my office desk.
Also, I began to re-examine my life goals, talents and passions. I determined that I like to teach, have talent as a teacher, and feel inspired by helping others learn. But that doesn’t mean this learning has to take place in a classroom or museum setting—where I initially taught. Sometimes these life transitions are the best triggers to kick you into a transition gear and take a hard look at reality and where you are going.
I left my full time job and followed my heart to complete my Ph.D. in Instruction and Learning and have been involved in corporate training and personal coaching ever since. My passion has always been to help others find fulfillment in their life’s endeavors, and making the switch to a more entrepreneurial business approach has allowed me to find a comfortable balance between work and personal responsibilities.
In this chapter of my life, I could enjoy working as an entrepreneur, responsible for my work schedule and also, I could spend quality time with family and friends. By this time, I was a mother of two boys and enjoyed spending time with the family activities.
The balancing act between professional and personal life requires trade-offs. Each chapter has a different combination of how time is spent and how you focus your attention. Women can have it all—just not at the same time. That’s the secret behind work-life balance.
My best advice, just like building a business plan, women need to build a set of goals and a vision for themselves. Then, get started.