6 Tactics to Win at Work And at Home
Often we read stories about women with high flying careers while being excellent mothers. Although largely inspiring, the narrative can appear out of reach and can even feel like a way to shame women — — “if you can’t have it all and be perfect at it all, why attempt it?” The truth is, doing well at work and at home is not a straight line. Navigating “success” in both arenas is delicate, and can feel like we’re living reactively fire-drill to fire-drill at times.
To further learn about how other successful executives who are also mothers have tried to find the delicate efficient frontier, I’ve drawn hope, and some lessons. In an interview, the venerable Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attributed her success in law school to holding the line of a “children’s hour” that started at 4pm and lasted until her daughter Jane was asleep which was a “total break from her day” studying law. Again and again, the common thread among these female executives is that they’ve resisted becoming overwhelmed by setting firm boundaries and becoming aware of their expectations of their days. Below are a few my favorite anecdotes from my research.
1. Schedule in your boundaries
Busy and out-of-control schedules are a common experience among busy executives. And yet, we’ve heard frequently from our successful female executives, the busier the schedule, the more need for scheduled, pre-planned family time.
“Setting boundaries and creating a schedule has made a big difference in my life. Weekends are usually designated as family time. I work through the day and late into the night, but when my kids are home, I try to set the phone down and connect. Our family has been working on less screen-time as a whole, and we have found that it makes a big difference in our mood and behavior. “ — Tori Hamilton, Founder of Mothericity
“So I had to take very good care of myself or I would not have been helpful to anyone else. I started working out every day. I started planning me time on my calendar. I became more comfortable with white space in my day and stopped over scheduling myself. And guess what? My business did not suffer, in fact it has become stronger. We moved up the food chain and have better clients. I do not think I could ever go back. I am so much happier and more productive as an entrepreneur than I ever was working for others. It is all about controlling your calendar. I no longer try to squeeze in more meetings or hit multiple events at night. As an entrepreneur, I can be selective. Less really is more. I’ve chosen quality over quantity. It sounds trivial but it is true. I created a platform to do work I enjoy and feel energized by. I feel I have found my purpose because I used to work all the time and life was passing me by.” — Paige Arnof-Fenn Mavens & Moguls
“my husband is my business partner so it definitely drifts into our personal time. I purposely plan activities and time for us to do things as a couple and not as business partners.” — Tina M. Baxter
2. Control your phone
Our phones are almost extensions of ourselves. Many busy executives told me that they feel naked without their phones. And studies have shown that extensive phone use in front of our significant others and children can lead to relationship problems, as well as behavioral problems in our young ones. So this very difficult, very necessary step is something else that our executives mention they regularly practice — which is controlling their phones. Leaving it in the other room so were not tempted to look at it every moment.
“When at home I put the phone away, turn off the distractions of work, and lovingly engage with family members.“ — Beth Vazquez, Recess & Results
Daily I ensure I leave my phone in my purse or away from me so I am not tempted to check it and focus my time from when arrive home until I put my son to bed. I try to keep a consistent time with my family as “sacred”, with dinner nightly being our main time to connect. — Summer Crenshaw, tilr
“I walk away from my computer, leave my phone in the other room and focus on my family. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is ok! But that’s why I do it — to step away from my work because we are ALL more than our work.” — Jen Oleniczak Brown, The Engaging Educator
“For me, it’s more about turning off the work brain so I can focus on my family and friends. Reminding myself to not talk about work, to not check my email, to leave my phone in the other room, etc. Also, equality in the home is extremely important in our marriage. My husband and I both work really hard at out jobs and often help each other sort through work challenges or celebrate professional successes, so it can be hard for both of us to turn off work-brain at the end of the day. Communication about this is key. We will often say “let’s take 10 minutes to share our work things and then move on for the evening.” We fail at this more often than succeed, but at least we acknowledge it and make an effort. “ — Piper Gunnarson, On Site Opera
3. Outsource and delegate
It’s natural that we delegate and outsource at work and in our professional settings. So why we don’t outsource at home? What gives? To be an effective executive we have to delegate at work. There’s no shame in asking for and getting help, and there’s no glory in trying to do everything yourself and burning yourself out.
“I love spending time with my fiance and my family. I love having dinner with friends and sharing stories. The one thing that suffers when I’m super busy isn’t relationships but the tidiness of my home. Thankfully, I can hire someone to help with that but I do notice my place becomes cluttered when I’m stressed or down.” — Jessie Medina, Founder of FEMX Quarters
4. Use food to bring people together
Food is the great equalizer, someone said. Food is also the great bringer together, the connection builder. More than one of our female executives have talked about using food to create memories and strengthen family bonds.
“My favorite way of showing love to my family is through food, so I like cooking with them and for them”. — Josephine Fan, J. Fan Holdings LLC, Long Island Aikikai
“We make it a priority to eat dinner together, to talk about the best parts of our day, play games together, exercise together, and enjoy each other”. -Beth Vazquez, Recess & Results
“When we need a break, we might go on a hike or a walk in the neighborhood. I always try to cook lunch or dinner for us as a way to nurture my family”. — Donie Yamamoto, Vital Pet Life
5. Dedicate as much effort into your family as your executive work life
Part of it is also mindset. It’s easy for our minds to be fixated on our work, on how to solve problems at work, on how to tackle one challenge or another. For our minds to naturally drift to that. However, to operate a healthy happy family takes no less dedication, so should some of our mental effort also be applied to our families. They deserve no less than our work life.
“My role as a wife and mother isn’t much different from my role as an executive. It’s all about balance. From the moment I walk through the door to the moment I turn the last page of my toddler’s bedtime story; my family has my undivided attention and the same can be said of me at work”. — Charity Hill, EPIC Entertainment Group
“The lines are often blurred because I’m always in work mode — even when I don’t mean to be. However I make a conscious effort to mute that side of my brain when I’m with family and friends. I’m present and truly focused on them and on building our relationship”. — Cindy Conroy (Self Employed)
“It’s actually super hard for someone who works at home to create a boundary between work-life and family-life. It’s also super weird for me now, as I have a newborn at home — so the way I allocate my time is new to me. At this point, I have made a recommitment to presence. I commit to being fully present with my business when I have the time to work on it, and fully present with my family when I’m with them”. — Maryna Shkvorets — Public Speaking and Communication Coach
6. Or just don’t
At the same time, other successful executive women with families simply go with the flow. They don’t try to set specific rules, and simply let what is most natural and authentic take shape.
“Ha, I don’t! Part of being authentic is allowing loved ones, old and new, to experience what’s important to you at any given time. In the same way I bring my loving self to the office, I bring my executive self home. Some days, I dial it back by forcing myself to be present and not think nor talk about work — but other days, I use my loved ones to brainstorm.” — Meha Agrawal, Silk and Sonder
And let it evolve:
“When my son was young, I was adamant about not taking calls when I was with him and I had a practice of being off my phone. During the teenage years, the balance looked a little different. Instead of the strict separation of work and family every day, we would take trips three times a year, just him and me, and everything else was off the table and we could enjoy each other’s company and each choose activities to do as a pair. Now that he’s an adult, we’ve incorporated his partner into this and it’s truly a beautiful thing.” — Cindy Eggleton
About The Author
Ming S. Zhao is the CEO and Co-Founder of PROVEN Skincare, which creates personalized skin care based on more than 47 factors about a person, including their gene expression, external lifestyle, environment and skin concerns. PROVEN’s Stanford scientist team applies Artificial Intelligence to create personalized skincare products by analyzing 20,238 skincare ingredients, 100,000 products, 20 million testimonials, and more than 4,000 scientific journal articles to understand exactly what ingredients work for which individuals. PROVEN Skincare is the winner of MIT’s AI Technology of the Year award, and was named by Allure to be the top skincare innovation of 2019. Ming is an immigrant, a third generation entrepreneur and a mother whose daughter is the same age as her company.