With the lively discussion that took place during the Women’s Diversity Program (WDP) call this morning, it is clear to me that “Work/Life Balance” is a concept many strive for, but few feel they are achieving. The word “balance” itself implies a stressful juggling act that is bound to cause anxiety. Allison Gapter explained, however, that it is possible to achieve “Work/Life Integration” if you find a system that works well for you, your family, and your lifestyle. Luckily, I have come to understand what system works well for my work and my life and was honored to be included in this WDP discussion with SAP’s female leaders, and share my insights.
When I first started at SAP two years ago, I was coming from a job where work/life integration was a foreign concept. I was a Wedding Director. Work was my life, and there was no balance. I was constantly at the beck and call of my clients and had a lot of trouble finding time to focus on my own well-being. Towards the end of my wedding experience, I began to slowly realize how much better I felt when I made an effort to achieve balance. When I prioritized taking the time to shut down and rejuvenate, I was a better person coming back to work, and I loved it!
I knew starting at SAP would come with its own challenges. I wanted to continue perfecting my work/life integration system but soon became overwhelmed with learnings, tasks, and opportunities. I fell right back into that stressful juggling act, which (naturally) caused a lot of anxiety. It was only when I started to see my life outside of work take a turn for the worst that I realized I needed to make a change, and fast.
To start, I decided to focus on three key areas to gain my happiness back. First, I was going to make my well-being a non-negotiable. For me, that meant six days of exercising a week. No exceptions. Did that mean I had to get up early and miss out on dinner with friends sometimes? Yes. Was it (and is it) worth it? Absolutely. I wholeheartedly agree with Allison’s sentiment that without regular exercise, I am not the best me I can be. Working out makes me feel good, and that has a positive impact on every area of my life. Making that my top priority was a game changer for me and I have worked out six times a week without fail for over a year now.
Second, I found being transparent with those that are closest to me changed the way I felt about my priorities. I no longer felt guilty for spending time on myself. As long as I let my colleagues, friends, and family know my schedule and my needs, my head is clear. I am fortunate to work on a great team and am surrounded with supportive family members and friends, but being honest about my own priorities came easily mostly because I had already made them non-negotiable for myself.
Last, I have made it a point to use the resources available to me. I am not someone that is good at asking for help, and by that, I mean, I absolutely hate it. As fate would have it, life threw me a curve ball 12 weeks ago and I broke my foot skateboarding in Yosemite. I was immediately panicked as to how I was going to exercise, let alone maintain a sense of “normalcy” or “balance” at all. Luckily, I already had my systems in place. My well-being was my number one priority and I had adopted a cadence of transparency so I continued to work out six days a week and kept my network informed about my new (and slower) schedule.
Unfortunately (and fortunately), as much as I didn’t want to, having a broken bone forced me to ask for help. It also made me realize how valuable my resources are. At work if I need back up, I ask my colleagues for a hand. At home if I am struggling, I am fortunate that my boyfriend and my family are extremely open and supportive. As much as I would like to believe I can, I can’t do it all. I can, however, accomplish a lot more with the help of my strong network. I’ve (reluctantly) made it a point to use my resources when I need to and doing that has made my priorities even easier to be transparent about.
Fast forward to today and my foot is on the mend and I have my work/life integration to thank for my head still being on straight during my healing processes. Additionally, SAP has so many great resources in the Employee Assistance Program to help us all keep things straight, balanced, and integrated when we need support.
I know it sounds taboo to say, but my work is not my number one priority. I am, and my family is. Making myself a top priority not only improves my happiness and my relationship with myself, but I have seen time and time again the impact it has on my relationships with my family, friends, and colleagues. I am a better employee, friend, girlfriend, daughter, and overall person when I take the time I need to focus on my well-being and that is reason enough to continue to make myself a top priority.
For me, it’s non-negotiable.
My 2016 Q4 challenge to you: Make it a priority to integrate your work with your own life by either:
- Listening to the recording
- Sharing your experience below in the chat to engage others in productive conversation on the topic
Also feel free to use other techniques described by previous early talent presenters in the blog links below:
- First Marketing Professional Journeys Webinar
- Women and Sponsorship: Paying It Forward
- Women & Technology: Finding Good Mentors