If you’re anything like me, you don’t have the type of money that could afford you a clone (or personal assistant) but you have loads of responsibilities that stem from being a spouse/significant other, parent, friend, sibling and professional to name a few. Trying to balance life without completely dropping the ball in an area important to you can seem impossible.
I am a mother of a 5 year old and a wife. I have a social life (friends, family and acquaintances), I run a non-profit organization and a for-profit organization and I have hobbies that include gardening, sewing and cooking. Yes, I squeezed hobbies in there. That is a MUST. If you don’t find ways to cater to your well-being, you will not be a pleasant person to be around in your business or personal life. People ask me often, how do I do it all while maintaining a pleasant attitude and a reputation for getting things done. Well, I’m here to share a few things that I’ve learned that could free up your time and strengthen your focus.
Know when to say “No”.
Have you ever found yourself identifying more and more with a bobble-head doll? Saying “Yes” all the time? Even when you know there is no way with everything on your plate you’ll be able to follow through? You just say yes and hope for the best because you don’t want to disappoint anyone and you don’t want them to think badly of you? I used to be this way. I didn’t understand that people would respect me more for setting and keeping my boundaries and for refusing to overcommit. If you want someone to truly dislike you or you want to tarnish what professional credibility you have established, tell them you’re going to do something that you don’t end up doing. Give your poor neck muscles a rest for a change. Those who get upset because you are being honest about your limitations will get over it. If they don’t care enough about your well being and respect you for having the kahunas to say no then I would reevaluate that person’s role in your life.
Come up with a system to organize yourself. Unapologetically.
So for those tasks that you absolutely cannot refuse to do like, meet a professional deadline that could cost you your job if you miss it or make cupcakes for your child’s entire Kindergarten class because its your day of the month to provide snacks, you need to create a system that works for you. Don’t be afraid to put processes in place for how you organize yourself at work and home and ask others to honor those processes when interacting with you. For example, I have the attention span of a knat. At work, staff and clients like to walk right in my office without warning. We get into a conversation andthe next thing you know 30 minutes has gone by and I’m no closer to checking off the next box on my To Do List. I’ve had to place a sign on my office door requesting to not be disturbed when it is closed. A couple of my young people (clients) didn’t appreciate it; they like me to be accessible to them whenever they see fit.
Oh well. If setting my boundaries means I upset them but I am able to complete a grant proposal that enables us to continue to provide services to them, then guess who’s keeping the sign up? Me. I’m not here to entertain them; I’m here to help them become self-sufficient so they can someday put a Do Not Disturb Sign up on their office door. That is where the unapologetic part comes in. Don’t feel bad about organizing yourself and creating systems that may not make sense to other people. At the end of the day, you’re expected to perform. You have people whom you are accountable to and for. Deliver. End of Story.
Everything is not a priority. Although going to get your nails done during lunch may be enticing and as you look down at them you feel ashamed that you have let them get to such a state, cancelling your lunch appointment with a contact that can potentially allow you to afford many future nail appointments may not be the smartest thing to do. When determining how to prioritize my life (personal and professional) I ask myself three questions:
1. Does it get me closer to the goal I am currently working towards?
2. Will it allow for the needs of my family (Husband and child- first and others I love/care for – second) to be met?
3. Will it help me grow as a person and as a professional?
Everything does not deserve your attention at the time it presents itself. Not that it will never be a priority but you must determine what is most important to you at the time and how it will influence your future.
Own your slip ups
You will drop the ball on some things. It’s inevitable. Dust yourself off and try again but be sure to admit to your shortcoming. Don’t make excuses for yourself. That really upsets those you are accountable to because they have their own set of issues going on. They won’t view your excuse as more valid than the one they could’ve used for not following through on a commitment that they’ve made. I am guilty of not returning a call/email in a timely fashion, or being late on submitting information I promised or missing a meeting that somehow didn’t make it to my calendar. It happens. That’s life.
You won’t catch me placing the blame on someone else for my failure to follow through. Own your slip ups. Evaluate what caused you to make them and adjust to prevent it from happening in the same fashion again.
If you find yourself in a pattern of dropping the ball and it tends to be the same type of slip up, you may need to re-evaluate its place in your life. It may be one of those things that you keep saying “Yes” to when you know you don’t have time for it and it is not at the top of your list of priorities. Like, you keep telling one of your friends that you’re going to bring your famous homemade sangria to her monthly get together but you look up and you haven’t made the sangria or made it to her party in the last 3 months. It’s not because you don’t love your friend and its definitely not because you don’t like to down a few glasses of your own quality libations, but it’s because you haven’t been able to find the time or energy to attend the get together, let alone make anything for it. Your priorities are elsewhere at the moment and that is okay. Just be upfront about it. Nobody likes a flake.
When you begin to feel overwhelmed and pulled in different directions, it may be time to say “No”, re-prioritize and determine a strategy that will keep you on track to accomplishing what is important to YOU and the family you created, first. Everything else will fall in line. The burn out is REAL! Be selective when it comes to your time! If you do not nurture your growth, tend to your well being and honor your responsibilities first, you will not be of much service to anyone else.