Work Life Balance - 7 top strategies from the collective wisdom of career women

wellness work life balance Feb 15, 2022

“How do you do it all?” It’s a question born more out of necessity and survival than admiration. How on earth are we supposed to work full time at our demanding careers, raise well-adjusted, kind humans, contribute to our communities, maintain our physical and mental wellbeing, and attempt to have a home that doesn’t feel like a disaster zone?  

Doing everything feels impossible, because it is impossible. Somewhere along the way, “maintaining work life balance” became synonymous with cramming even more things into already overflowing lives. Striving for balance should not equate to ratcheting up our expectations of ourselves even more.

So we turn to our friends, colleagues and communities and ask: “How are you keeping up?”

Because this question comes back so often, we’ve compiled the advice shared by so many brilliant, accomplished women who are doing their very best to hang on, in the hopes that you’ll find some nugget of wisdom that helps make your life feel a little bit more manageable too. 


Collective Wisdom #1: Prioritize

There is simply not enough time in the day to do everything (or do it well at least), so you have to prioritize.  If you’re struggling to get it all in, start by defining what “balance” means to you. What are the things that you feel out of balance if you don’t do them? What are the things that enrich your life, your happiness and wellbeing? Is it undivided quality time with each child? Is it quality 1:1 time with your spouse? Is it quiet uninterrupted time? Is it a clean home? Is it family activities? Is it physical fitness? 

Where does a movie and popcorn rank in your priorities? 

The feedback from those who have been is universally that “work life balance” can’t mean ALL things. By clarifying what’s truly important, some manage to cover what truly matters, most of the time. It takes careful planning and a whole bag of tricks. 

Collective Wisdom #2: Outsource

A clean, uncluttered, organized closet? Dreams!

The most universal answer to the question “how do you do it” is “we get help”. Some are lucky to have loved ones close by who can pitch in, but for those who don’t, they swear by getting as much help as they can reasonably afford. Some common examples:

  • Get extra childcare - After school care, a nanny, a regular babysitter, and Au Pair. Having reliable childcare that can support your professional and personal goals matters, especially for those periods where school is canceled, on teacher training day, finishing early.
  • Get household help - A regular housekeeper, help decluttering and organizing, regular help with meal prep or cooking, or help with errands. Any activity that takes up time that you don’t enjoy doing, or that causes friction in your life (like extra unwanted stuff), hire someone to help with.
  • If you can’t hire a person, look for a service - Meal delivery boxes, grocery delivery, regular delivery of household staples, landscaping service, pet walking, pet poop pick up, mobile mechanic. 
  • Reset responsibilities with your partner or spouse - Women often take on a huge share of the invisible labor (the comic “You should have asked” illustrates this beautifully). When was the last time you talked about division of responsibilities with your partner (or your kids?). We love Eve Rodsky’s Fair Play Game as a strategy to do this.


Collective Wisdom #3: Lower your Expectations

We can be our own worst enemy by having expectations that are unrealistic and unmanageable. Lower them. All the way down, to the lowest level you can tolerate. 

  • Eliminate whatever responsibilities you can - Know the difference between the “musts” the “wants” and the “shoulds”. We need to eat every day, but does it need to be a home cooked meal every time? Nope. We’d love for our kids to be in multiple enrichment programs and activities, but can we manage the logistics? Also nope. One way to have better balance is to just commit to less stuff. What can you eliminate from your responsibility roster?
  • Cut corners - Get takeout. Use paper plates if you’re in a particularly brutal work period and dishes are the straw that are breaking the camel’s back. Be ok with some clutter or a pile of papers. Re-wear clothes a second time. Buy yourself some downtime by letting the kids binge-watch a (safe) tv show. These are not great strategies if employed ALL the time, but sometimes, you do what you have to do. If you’re in one of those seasons where it’s all just too much, give yourself permission to cut corners. 


Collective Wisdom #4 - Plan ahead

Look at this beautiful, EMPTY, to do list. So neat and unrealistic.

Without question, the people who were able to cover the most of their priorities were those who planned ahead (or had a ton of help). Here is a few of the pointers that our super organized sisters shared:

  • Calendar EVERYTHING - Create a shared google calendar that includes all responsibilities, school commitments, appointments, and clarifies who is on point for which.
  • Run your household like your team - Have weekly meetings, with clear agendas. Discuss logistics, responsibilities, priorities together. Hold each other accountable. 
  • Plan all your meals in advance - Knowing what’s on the menu and knowing that the necessary ingredients are already in the refrigerator can simplify lunch and dinner prep. Having some staple easy to prep and make recipes is another go-to.
  • Have clear roles & responsibilities - Scheduling downtime for each parent, even scheduling who gets to sleep in and exercise was another frequently cited method for covering all the essentials. 


Collective Wisdom #5 - Protect your non-work time

One thing that often threatens our ability to handle our home responsibilities and aspirations is work leaking over into the evenings and weekends. The best defense is a good offense.

  • Block off time - Carve out time during the day to think or work on your highest priority projects (so this doesn’t get pushed off to evenings or weekends). If something is on your critical path and you can’t get to it during your work day because you’re in meetings or responding to less critical requests, guess where it’s going? 
  • Say no - Decline meetings or projects where you’re not essential/don’t contribute value. One mom said “I am RUTHLESS with meetings”. If there’s not a clear agenda, or role for you to play, why are you there? 
  • Set goals - Start the day with clear priorities of what needs to get done before you shut your laptop. Make sure you do those first. 


Collective Wisdom #6 - Bolster your well being and resilience

Quick, get to working out before someone interrupts.

Understanding what you need to be your best self, and how you respond to and deal with the overwhelm matters. If you’re not well, the whole system comes crashing down. Here were some suggestions on how to put on your own oxygen mask:

  • Look after your mental health - Therapy or Coaching help you process, deal with the overwhelm, and clarify your goals. If you frequently feel overwhelmed and anxious, make this a priority. Meditation can also be super helpful, and easy to implement in just a few minutes.
  • Create clear health goals - Establish a workable exercise routine that is realistic in your life. 15 minutes is better than 0 minutes. Choose one or two ways to support your physical health. 
  • Do things that bring you joy - Solo time, creative pursuits, hobbies. What do you do just for you? 


Collective Wisdom #7: Know it won’t go as planned

Most of us are guilty of setting the bar too high. Know that whatever priorities you have set, you probably won’t be successful 100% of the time. Don't beat yourself up on days it doesn’t happen. Practice self-compassion (check out this post for more on that).

Be aware that your plans will likely need to change and that’s ok. Reevaluate, tweak, adjust and adapt. Some weeks, you may need to go in “emergency mode” and throw out everything that doesn’t directly contribute to your survival. That’s ok. 


Keep in mind it’s hard. It’s all really hard. It takes constant focus and practice, and it’s going to go off the rails sometimes. We hope you found something in here you can apply that will help! 

We love to set aside regular time to reassess priorities and routines. And of course, there’s no better way to do that than with the full reset that a retreat offers (if you don’t know about the Mindfulness Incubator Retreat yet, check it out here)

If you’d like to explore more on the topic of work life balance, check out:

Good luck, we’re in this together!

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