Many women would agree that they are juggling way too many responsibilities. It is not just home and work but also extended family obligations, volunteering, etc. Although we would “like to do it all” I have found looking back over my life that I wish I had turned down some of this stuff and focused more on what makes me feel fulfilled. I admit that I have joined groups, gone to networking events, and been on committees that at the time I thought would be beneficial, but instead they were big time wasters and/or I did a lot of the work and others did almost nothing. I am much more selective now as I realize my time is valuable.
A former classmate of mine gave a presentation that has stuck with me and made me realize that being selective on how I spend my time is necessary. It is more for sanity sake than anything else. She said that you have to figure out what the crystal balls and the tennis balls are in your life. When a tennis ball falls, it rolls under a chair, across the room, etc. You can always retrieve it later. However when a crystal ball falls, it breaks and cannot be put back together. In other words, it is gone for good.
Women leaders today need to figure out about all these balls they are juggling. A good idea that a productivity consultant friend of mine suggested is to do a brain dump of everything you have to do (and I mean everything – personal and professional) and then prioritize. The lower end items could most likely be delegated to someone else but that means giving up control which women have a tough time doing. The other issue about delegating that I hear is “I don’t have time to teach someone else to do it”. My suggestion is to identify what needs to be done, give some brief instructions, and let the other person do it. If they do the project/chore/task differently than the way you would of done it but it gets done, embrace the moment and be thankful it is done.
This not only takes one thing off your to do list but it also is one less thing going on in your head. This also gives you the opportunity to deal more with the crystal balls then the tennis balls. As an example, you could have someone else prepare a report which would free you up to go to your child’s class for an event. It is more important to have lasting memories with your child than to write a report. You can always edit the report later. This also empowers the person you are delegating to and gives them the opportunity to work at a higher leadership level which is a learning lesson for them. Win-win!
If you are apprehensive about all of this, start with a small task; have a family member fold the towels or fill the dishwasher. It always amazes me in my presentations how many women will not give these two chores to others. It only takes ten minutes or so but if you add them over a course of year, think of all that time you could be doing something for yourself. In the workplace, delegate a section of a project to a junior staff member. I sometimes find they have better ideas than I would have come up with.
It has taken a long time to realize I want a lot more crystal balls than tennis balls in my life. I now look at my to-do list differently every day with a new perspective. I have learned to say “no”. I have pared down the events and meetings on my calendar. I have distanced myself from toxic people. I don’t look at my phone as much unless I want to talk (not text) a friend. I volunteer for things that really matter to me. I also challenge the people who work for me by giving them things to do that I know they will learn from and I don’t need to keep doing. I have embraced quiet moments so I have time for reflection. Lastly, I realize I am the #1 person I spend the most time with so if I don’t start taking care of myself no one else will.