I’ve been talking with a lot of women lately about their biggest parenting challenges, and, not surprisingly, one of the themes that is coming up over and over again is that of time, balance, and juggling everything involved with being a leader both at work and at home.
We know this already: women feel stretched really thin. It’s a year-round condition, but with the added anxiety related to the election and still evolving outcomes, plus the upcoming holidays and the heavy burden of creating a magical and joy-filled experience for our kids, it would be understandable if you’re looking ahead to January 3rd with some longing.
At this point, as women and as mothers especially, it’s easy to assume that feeling stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed is a given, and par for the course. You may feel skeptical about any proposed solutions, especially at this time of the year when your to-do list is a mile long, and the pressure feels great.
So let’s not try to remove the pressure or stress. Let’s simply try to alleviate it even just a little bit.
1.) Remind yourself of the value that you provide.
It can be easy to feel that you’re working incredibly hard without much to show for it. As a mom, especially, but also as a leader in any industry or profession, it can feel like you’re pouring all this heart and energy into a black hole. I know how discouraging it can feel, and how, as a type A overachiever, a likely reaction is to feel that you simply have to work harder and do more.
I don’t have to tell you that this is a no-win cycle, yet how many of us find ourselves trapped in it anyway?
This holiday season, stop for a minute and think about everything that you are already doing and all the value that you already provide, at work and at home.
2.) Remember that what you do matters.
I was talking with someone the other day who took one of my workshops almost five years ago. She said that she reads my emails and that sometimes they are exactly what she needs to hear right then, and while she thinks about writing back, she never has. “But you should know that your emails matter,” she said.
Our work matters – so much more than we realize, and to so many more people than we may ever hear from.
In the day-to-day, it can feel like we’re not making the impact that we would like. But I’m willing to bet that you’re making a bigger impact than you realize, both at work and at home, even if no one is thanking you for it.
3.) You don’t need to do more – impress by doing less.
Our workaholic culture promotes the idea that the way to provide value, have impact, and impress others is by working more.
You don’t have to buy into this premise.
Flip that around and think about how you could impress by doing less, both at work and at home.
If that sounds impossible, consider that when you do less, you can put more focus and attention on what you are doing so it has greater impact. Doing fewer things well is better than doing many things less well. Simplifying provides great value in and of itself, and is a way of building as well as demonstrating vision, leadership, and confidence.
Take a look at everything you’re doing and ask yourself – how can I do less? How can I simplify this?
Achieving more by doing less IS more impressive – it’s more sustainable, more efficient, more effective and, if you’re looking at a business context, more profitable.
4.) Operate within your “zone of genius” as much as possible.
One of the books that has had a great impact on me professionally as well as personally is “The Big Leap: Conquer your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level” by Gay Hendricks. In it, Hendricks explores the concept of your “zone of genius” where time seems to stand still because you are doing what you are best at doing AND love to do AND find most rewarding AND reflects a unique ability that provides benefit to yourself and others.
This is as opposed to your “zone of excellence” where many of us reside because it is good enough and safer and less risky. (One thing I have learned is that just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you should do it.)
What I have found is that the more you can adjust or reframe how you spend your time (both at work and at home) so more of it is spent in your zone of genius, the more you can leverage your time and the less overwhelmed and stretched thin you will feel. Refer to chapter four of the book for a short but in-depth exercise to explore what your zone of genius is – this can be a game changer.
5.) Find resilience through joy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately, both as a parent and a business owner, even before the election, but this topic has become even more relevant to me since. How do we recover from disappointment and failure? How do we get back off the floor and move on with our lives even as we grapple with a still-unfolding situation that is not of our choosing, and all of the attendant grief, trauma, and fear?
I don’t have the answers, but I do know this: we still get to experience joy. I have struggled with this, perhaps in the face of some guilt about the privilege that I have, but, as I said to a friend recently, they don’t get to take away our joy.
In fact, tools such as gratitude and joy can help us to pause and find space in our lives to be present and in the moment, and thus find the strength to keep moving forward. You don’t have to find anything positive about a particular situation, but if you look around and find an area of your life where there is joy, it can give you a thread of well-being in your life that you can build on.
Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick is photography coach for parents and founder of Photosanity (http://photosanity.com). She helps parents find joy & connection through photographing their kids.