Time does not discriminate. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day regardless of their gender or their profession. And any person, who is building something of significance, needs to contribute a significant amount of time to managing both his or her work and personal life. But when it comes to women, this balance is skewed. Studies have shown that professional women face higher anxiety and stress-related issues as compared to their male counterparts. One reason for this could be the society’s continued reinforcement of traditional gender roles, which in turn put additional pressure on working women without providing an actual system that helps them create an optimal work-life balance.
Being a businesswoman and leader, this is something I have come to realize —that I have a crucial role in decision-making and my time has significant importance both at work and at home. And so, over the years, I have developed strategies that have helped me become more adept at balancing my role at work, as the Managing Director of Antarmanh Consulting, as well as at home as a mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, and more.
Of course, this is not something that anyone can do alone. I’ve found it’s about working with others to develop the best possible system. Here are the systems that have worked for me:
1. Learn to manage your time well
The trope of comparing women to goddess Durga is not something that works in the real world. We don’t have eight hands like Durga ji, as much as the media would like us to believe that. We have two hands and one brain, and just 24 hours a day. It is crucial to understand this and thereby understand the importance of time management. Rigid beliefs and behaviors don’t work.
As women, we need to prioritize, set goals, track things, and remember that by doing this we’re not being selfish.
For those of us who are mothers, the biggest challenges come with balancing motherly responsibilities as well as reproductive health with those at work. And trust me, it is not possible if you don’t manage your time and prioritize. It’s also important to remember that we need to prioritize our health in all of this because without that everything goes for a toss.
2. Create a culture of joint efforts
If there’s one thing I could tell every woman out there, it would be, “it’s okay to ask for help.”. As women, we’ve been raised to not rely on outside help for our needs and wants. For someone who is juggling multiple responsibilities, this can go south really fast. Women need to understand that they can delegate and also learn how to do so.
You will be surprised at how willing people are to help. But most people get overwhelmed, burnt out, and quit without ever thinking to ask for help. This is a huge mental block I’ve seen. And while this is one side of the spectrum, the other is that of people who delegate everything and don’t do anything themselves. Both of these extremes can be dangerous for your growth.
But building a system with your seniors and juniors where you get clarity on the exact responsibility you need to handle while delegating the rest of the work with clear instructions can help clear up your mental bandwidth and also free up your time.
3. Don’t reduce yourself to a gender
A “good woman” is one who can sacrifice everything she has, even her character, for her family and loved ones. These traditional gender roles are very deep-rooted and often prevent women from looking past their gender. These prevent women from understanding their intrinsic worth as human beings.
Professional women have the power to change this narrative by striving and working toward balance, by understanding that like every other human on the planet, they have wants and needs that deserve to be fulfilled. Women need to understand that they cannot take care of someone else without taking care of themselves first. It is therefore extremely important to prioritize self-care, give yourself time to enjoy the little things in life, and do things that bring you peace and happiness.
This can only come by understanding that not everything is your fault and you need to stop magnifying the guilt of not being good enough. If your son is not performing well at school or if your daughter is going through mental health issues, or if home expenditures are high, it’s not necessarily your fault. And these issues in life shouldn’t take away from the things you do for yourself.
4. Build a system that empowers those around you
I truly believe that empowering others is the key to having a good work-life balance. This is true for both your life at work and at home.
At work, it’s about empowering your team members and your juniors to take on more responsibility and execute it well. At home, you need to identify what responsibility everyone holds and comprehend the need for their support as well as help them build a support system that functions well.
For instance, I have two daughters, studying in grade 9 and grade 5, their studies are my responsibility. I have to segregate this by empowering my elder ones and creating a support system for the younger ones. Empowering others signifies that everyone is aware of what they’re supposed to do and then assuring them that there is a support system with them, making them responsible. At the same time, giving them the freedom to choose how they want it.
5. Work towards empathy
My core strength is empathy. If somewhere my physical presence is required, not only for work but just for the emotional support for my family members, friends, or colleagues, this becomes a priority for me. I always try to handle the emotional challenges first, not only for my teenage daughter but also for my employees, so that people can lead their days beautifully.
Empathy is a core quality and the more we can develop it amongst ourselves as well as cultivate it among others, the better balance we can strive to have.
6. Strive towards psychological safety at the workplace
Everyone faces different levels of stress. In our organization, rather than flowing from top to bottom it shoots up to top from the bottom. Employees are a little empowered, and they have their mental health safety but they are unable to pass the same to their leaders. I see leaders, here, are more burnt out than employees. People are working productively because they are being provided with the comfort to enhance their performance levels.
Many organizations hire fewer resources and get more of the work done. I think in the initial stages, once an organization is growing, it should hire more people. They think that it is a force, but it is an investment. So once there are more people and people are sharing one responsibility, it is good for the organization.
But even if you’re not in a leadership position to orchestrate this, speaking with your leaders to delegate work and ensure psychological safety should be a top priority. Improving work culture is everyone’s responsibility and everyone should partake in it.
7. Remember to pause
One of the core reasons for burnout is that we forget to pause. There always comes a phase in life when we feel very high on energy and we keep going, constantly, without taking a break, without realizing the value of resting.
As a result of burnout, so many things can go wrong. Brain fog is one of the most common problems, which then leads to poor decision-making. And often, when someone is faced with a lot of work pressure, they try to do it all themselves for the fear of being judged by family, friends, and colleagues. This results in a lot of self-limiting behavior that further fuels burnout. For instance, one of our team members who was getting married and had all the responsibility for the wedding on her shoulders also tried to juggle work at the same time without taking leaves for the fear of her salary being cut. This is not healthy. And if you’re in this situation, you should definitely speak to your organization about reaching a healthy compromise.
Rest can look different for different people. For some it might mean spending more time with people, keeping things lively, and having a great social life. While for others it might mean taking time off from all social engagements to recover and rejuvenate. Anywhere where your mind is meaningfully engaged can help you rest and recover, but the important thing to remember is to take rests and not go on and on without any breaks.
Most women shoulder slightly more responsibility in day-to-day life than their male counterparts. And as more and more women are becoming aware of this skew, they are choosing their profession over having children or traditional family life. In all honesty, it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, it will take some extra work, but if you manage to create systems of communication and empower others, women can do wonders at managing work-life balance.
About Seema Rekha:
Seema Rekha is a gentle humanitarian by heart and a passionate leader. She has been zealously working for a decade with her partners from varied backgrounds such as government, health, lifestyle, pharmaceuticals, information technology, etc. in the arena of emotional wellbeing.
She is a successful, female entrepreneur who has taken Antarmanh’s services to 13 countries in a span of 2 years. The globally operational organization is bootstrapped since 2013, and is credited with delivering mental health services in diverse socio-cultural communities.