Balance as Myth

Eight tips to stop trying to "do it all" and find success.

It's a common theme portrayed in movies and TV and often debated in real life: How does the modern woman "do it all?" How does a woman balance her family, career, passions, friends, and other facets of a full life? Maybe, we're looking at this puzzle the wrong way while striving for something that's actually unattainable. If we consider that finding the perfect balance is really a myth, we open ourselves to limitless possibilities.

With women earning about 57 percent of undergraduate degrees and 60 percent of master's degrees in the United States, why are so few of them in the corner offices of corporations? According to a study published by Catalyst in 2012, only 21 percent of Fortune 500 C.E.O.s are women. In addition, women only hold 14 percent of executive officer positions and 17 percent of board seats. Despite these statistics, research shows that companies run better with both women and men in leadership roles.

So why do women get an education, enter the workforce, and struggle to cross the chasm to the corner office? One reason is that on their way to the top, they begin to search for the mythical "balance." They cannot find it because it does not exist; and they believe the only answer is to leave their career or step back in their journey.

How do we help women realize that balance is just a myth, and leadership is possible with the right expectations, persistence, and tools? The following life and work tips can help women rethink professional and personal success.

  1. Stop searching for balance. One issue that holds women back is their search for balance. When it's not there, they get frustrated, possibly turning down a promotion or leaving the workforce completely. By staying in the workforce, women can be successful in both their work and home lives.
  2. Make home life a priority. If there is something wrong at home, you need to work it out. Otherwise, it will always bother you at the office. You might change jobs, but your cornerstone is your home life.
  3. Manage your time more efficiently. Be present in what you're doing, finish it, and move on. I have my list of things to do, and I'll assign time slots to it. If I have one hour to work on a presentation at work or one hour to clean at home, I do the best I can for that one hour.
  4. Combine your work and family schedules. I used to keep two different calendars: one for home and one for work. I was missing work deadlines, my kids' activities, and other events. I combined the calendars, which caused me to start talking about my family at work and integrating my two lives. It's one life and one calendar! Now, I don't miss a thing.
  5. Stay in the moment. When you're at work in a meeting, be there. When you're at home, be there. If you're in a business meeting, don't wish to be somewhere else. Be present where you are, and don't feel guilty about where you're not.
  6. It isn't just a job. Work at a place and on something about which you are passionate. Don't just take a "job," but rather foster a career. This way, you don't have to choose between work and life because your work is a major part of your life.
  7. Take the promotion. The only way that you are going to be able to effect change is to get yourself and other women in a place where you are making decisions.
  8. Sponsor another women. It can be lonely as you move toward to corner office. Sponsor other women inside and outside of your company. Women can be their own worst enemy in the workplace, but they can also be the inspiration for their own change. And with this cultural shift, more companies in the United States will see a different view from the top with more women executives leading the way.