5 Tips for Achieving Work Life Balance as a Female Leader

Higher Ed Leadership Series

As a female leader, you likely take on multiple roles, both inside and outside of the workplace. Sometimes this can make “work life balance” feel more like an unrealistic buzzword than something you can actually achieve.

In most cultures, women take on the role of caregiver to those they love. Whether you are caring for children or an ill or aging relative, women have to juggle the caregiver role in addition to any other role you have outside of their home.

So, what does that mean for women who hold senior roles? Are you exempt from managing the caregiver role? Of course not! What’s more, typically neither role considers the other. So it’s important for you to pause and develop a game plan on how best to manage the tasks and expectations of each. Here are a few tips that may help:

1) Get clear on critical tasks

Identify those “crucial” tasks that have to get done, both in your professional work and your personal life. Then, look for conflicts between the two. Do you have a standing meeting at the same time your mother has a doctor’s appointment? How might you deal with this?

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know what I’m going to say next…

Prioritize! Is one task more important than the other? Is it possible to move the date/time of either appointment? Look (and ask) for flexibility whenever possible. And if something can’t be rearranged, then it must be delegated.

2) Ask for help

Us women are notorious for suffering in silence. The drive to “do it all” is not realistic – and it’s actually unhealthy. Prolonged stress can be seriously detrimental to your mental and physical health. And if you’re not at your best, you can’t show up as the leader or caregiver that your people need.

Don’t be afraid to ask for support where you need it. This could be from your boss, spouse, siblings, children, assistant, nanny, etc. If no one knows that you’re feeling overwhelmed, then they won’t know how to help.

3) Don’t keep secrets!

Women in leadership typically hide the caregiver aspect of themselves from work associates. There is a perception that if we are caregivers, we won’t be able to fully commit to our work. So women may get passed up for assignments or promotions.

Let’s not perpetuate that ridiculous thought process. Instead, let’s confront it head on and let others know what you’re juggling. Then, continue to KILL IT at work. This level of transparency will help your team get to know you better and develop trust. You may also find folks in similar shoes as you who can relate or even give you advice on managing this other role.

So, say it loud…I’m a caregiver and I’m proud!

4) Focus on “seasonal” balance

It may be hard to maintain perfect harmony between work and personal life year-round. Instead, seek seasonal balance. For example, during the start of the year, you may need to be all in at work. So you may have to do less in your caregiver role as so much of your energy will have to be on the beginning of year activities. But as months progress and things slow down at work, you can ramp up your caregiving activities. Seasonally you’re balanced, even if at a given moment, things are lopsided.

5) Find someone to talk to

It’s a LOOOOT to manage these roles, and to do it well. You likely aren’t even being noticed for the awesome job you are doing. So, whether it’s a close friend or a therapist, find someone you can unload on who will help you feel seen, heard and valued. 

Work life balance won’t look the same for everyone – and it may not look the same for you at different points in your life. But with some intentional planning, prioritizing, and delegating, finding a balance that allows you to manage your roles without burning yourself out is possible!

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