On May 25th, I was very privileged to be a panelist at LEAD – a women’s leadership group within Bank of America. The event was designed to provide insight about balancing career and family demands. The group was focused on what LEAD refers to as three pillars – professional, physical and internal.
There were so many great questions from the attendees and super pieces of advice, it’s a bit risky to say this one was the best, but I will offer my opinion on the one suggestion that – at least in my opinion – summed up the core of everything important we discussed. Laura Brueggemann, the Head of Group Fitness and Lifetime Fitness in St. Louis, MO offered a piece of advice that I think provides a great overview for the whole work-life balance puzzle many of struggle to unlock.
Laura said – “If you walk an hour a day, six days a week, it will change your life.”
What I really love about this advice is its basic simplicity, and the fact that we can take control over our personal, professional and physical well-being with some easy to implement behaviors – like walking an hour a day. So much of the work-life balance material and writing seems so complicated and abstract. Laura got right to the core of a simple solution that all of us can implement – walk.
This got me thinking about so many other aspects of this work-life thing, and truthfully, when you cut away all of the theory and abstractions, taking control of this vitally important part of our lives and careers comes down to some equally simple, honest and straightforward solutions.
Balancing the competing and frequently contradictory demands of work and home is one of the toughest things we face. And – in my opinion anyway – this balancing burden usually falls most unfairly on women. But – I firmly believe striking this balance is a vital and crucial part of everyone’s long-term career success. It certainly has been and remains very important to me.
Striking this balance requires the ability to understand and then articulate your needs. And by “needs” I mean those professional and personal requirements that you cannot compromise and must address to be happy, productive and successful. In my experience – mostly recent experience, by the way – I managed to understand my personal and professional needs when I substantially simplified my internal inquiries and questions to answer. So rather than worry about what my professional development needs might be, I ask myself am I happy? When I have been happiest before?
What I learned when I simplified the questions, is that the answers tend to be more linked to my core values and honest reflections of my true, basic most crucial needs. The key questions – for me anyway – turn on what does my family need from me? And what do I need from my career to meet those needs? Oddly enough, the answers look a lot like, “Walk an hour a day, six days a week, and it will change your life.”
For me, this looks like – more time at key hours of the day at home, more reliance upon web-based communications so I can maximize my time away from the office, more insistence on separating myself from work by disconnecting the PDA. Just like walking, once I got these behaviors turned into habits, the work-life balance puzzle really got less complicated.