Work-life balance–– that seemingly mythical concept that keeps us hustlers up at night, worrying about both reaching our self-defined high levels of success, and coming down with an extreme case of FOMO as a result.
As women, work-life balance is often packaged and sold to us in the context of domestic labor. We are told that the hardest balance to achieve is between a career and a family. Commercials for stain remover and tropical resorts show working mothers dressed in pencil skirts, feeding a screaming baby with their right hand and fielding conference calls with their left.
These images, quite frankly, look like hell. And for those of us who plan to have children someday, these images create a sense of urgency that can influence an entire decade or so of our lives. Many of my ambitious friends share the sentiment that they must pack as much of their career into their 20s as possible to get ahead of the productive time they’ll lose in their child-rearing years.
Although we likely won’t see a resolution to this massive systemic issue any time soon, there are steps we can take to not let ourselves become so wrapped up in our work that we lose the precious self-discovery time of our 20’s. I acknowledge that not all women want children, so not all women can relate to this sentiment. I trust, though, that most readers of a women’s workwear company blog will benefit from my work-life balance tips :)
So, regardless of your future family plans, this post is for women like me. Workaholics. Capricorn sun, moon, and rising (gross, I know). People who have been mentally 45 since they were like, seven years old. Early-twenty-somethings who are terrified that if they are not constantly productive, their life will become meaningless and they will combust.
These are the actions that have helped me maintain my sanity and make me confident that I will emerge into the next decade still youthful, well-rounded, and full of fun stories. Calm down girlfriend, you’re going to be okay.
Tip 1: Slow down and enjoy the ride. Don’t get caught in the high growth trap.
There is a myth that success is synonymous with scale. Especially in the startup world, fast-paced, high growth has become a standard measure of achievement; however, this is not a sustainable model. Often, the faster you grow, the more difficult it becomes to act with purpose and intention, and keep yourself or your venture in control. When you allow yourself to slow down and enjoy the ride, you allow yourself to absorb lessons from your experiences instead of recklessly rushing through to the next one.
Tip 2: Prioritize your health, always.
First, if you feel like you’re getting sick, act sick. Stop pounding back Dayquil shots. Stay home, load up on camu camu, elderberry and echinacea tea, sleep all day, and get well soon. The more you try to push through your workdays and suppress your body’s natural immune fighting responses, the longer you’re going to be sick! When your body is begging for a break, take one (this goes for mental health, as well).
Second, if you don’t already know, take the time to get to know your body and discover what makes you feel the best. Some people can function on four hours of sleep, and others will be useless with any less than eight and a half every night. Find your recipe for peak performance, and honor it as often as you can.
Tip 3: Implement brain hygiene by doing one mindful/less thing for yourself every day.
Amidst all your laser-focused thinking, it is important to give your mind a quiet place and the freedom to wander. Taking a moment to give your “working” mind a break allows you to check in with yourself, sort through your emotions, and process life as it happens around you.
I like to do activities that require a bit of concentration like yoga, cooking, or painting my nails. Paying attention to these details gives my mind a break from mulling over work details. Whenever I fit such activities into my day, I return to the chaos feeling more centered, energized and creative.
Sometimes in these quieter moments, I find that my mind is too inundated to truly relax. If this happens and you are an external processor, try calling a family member or a close friend. If you are an internal processor, journal out your thoughts. I’ve learned that I process through movement and writing, so my notes app has become a scary, unorganized conglomerate of all the questions and thoughts I have throughout the day.
Tip 4: Learn about things other than your niche.
Most ambitious people are addicted to learning. The more you know, the better you can be in any given field. Insatiable curiosity is a fantastic trait, but too much of one thing can burn out your interest in it. To become more well-rounded, try to diversify your learning. Instead of spending your commute home from your job at a blockchain company listening to a podcast about blockchain, listen to a podcast that teaches you different lessons.
Tip 5: Remind yourself of your age.
It is easy to feel old and worn out when you’re a workaholic. The beauty of being young is that society expects us to be a little wild and selfish. It’s okay to spend a day doing absolutely nothing with your besties! Go on a date with someone hot, just because you can! Dance your heart out all night at the club and sleep the entire next day! Take three days to go to your friend’s lakehouse and don’t answer any emails! I promise the world will keep spinning.
Break the habit of over-apologizing and justifying your desire to have fun. Make sure every heavy work period is broken up by a dash of letting loose, or you will start to go crazy. Remember you want to have cool “when I was your age” stories to tell ).
Tip 6: Build chores or errands into your schedule like you would phone calls or meetings.
When you already have a jam-packed schedule, tasks like grocery shopping, doing laundry, or cleaning your apartment feel extra annoying and can be pushed back for days. These tasks are wonderful because they can be moved to the bottom of the list if need be, but the longer they are put off, the more urgent they become.
When you assign a higher priority to these tasks, you are practicing self care-- just in a less glamorous way than a face mask! I’ve always found that when I think of these chores as non-negotiable responsibilities, they become my favorite tasks to complete. They feel like a welcome breather of mindless activity amidst a busy day full of sedentary brainpower.
A new graduate from Syracuse University, Marielle Brunelle is a co-founder of Rilla and recently moved to New York City to work at a PR Agency. Marielle talks to us about start-up culture, being a co-founder, and what it was like to work for the Council of Europe as an intern