17 Jul The Real Work Life Imbalance

I am sure that PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has some fantastic lessons on leadership that we could all benefit from. She could teach us about managing boards and shareholders and telling a story through the press. But when it comes to parenting, I suspect Nooyi could learn a lot from other people who organized their time and their life commitments differently.

Nooyi may be a fantastic mom, but when we’re asking her, Anne-Marie Slaughter and other world-class, high-achieving executives how the whole parenting thing is going, is it a surprise that we aren’t getting anywhere?

It’s time to shift the work/life dialogue in four steps:

1. Change the standards

As women, we love to measure ourselves. Our dress size, our happiness, and the accomplishments of our children compared to those of our friends. So it is no surprise that we cling to the latest measurement fad…”Do we have it all”?

Not a single one of the current 6 billion people on earth has achieved this goal du jour. Neither Jennifer Aniston nor Barack Obama nor the stay at home mom with 2.5 kids nor the career woman forced to miss both her son’s school play and her daughter’s T Ball game in the same week. None of these parents, and none of you, can honestly answer yes.

So if we can’t point to anyone who “has it all,” why are we all measuring ourselves on this preposterous yardstick? Let’s leave it behind. And while we are at it, let’s get rid of juggling and leave that to circus professionals.

2. Stop asking women who work 80+ hours per week how they balance

We should ask Anne-Marie Slaughter and Indra Nooyi how to be great diplomats or how to be outstanding leaders. But when someone who spends more than 80 hours a week at work finds that they don’t have all the time they would like to be a mother, (or spouse, or friend, or member of their church), let’s not give them the pulpit to declare there is no such thing as work/life balance. Let’s understand that for this moment in time, their life won’t be a model for yours.

If we insist on asking them about motherhood we should ask them how they feel about the slices of time they do have with their families and how they effectively use them. The interesting stories from these women lay in these small but important victories.

3. Adopt a new yardstick: The Pie

Try this exercise to reframe how you think about work life management:

Envision that you have a whole baked pie. Now, picture slicing your pie into pieces based on the time you allocate to the various elements of your life. Your slices might include career, kids, partner or dating, health, friends, and volunteering. Anything that regularly takes up time in your week.

Be honest about the relative sizes of those slices; what percentage of your time each category gets. Don’t fudge the numbers, because it won’t do you any good…from now on your success will no longer be measured by time.

Instead, we will presume that you don’t have much control over time. You might have a sick parent to care for or a big proposal to present. You have money to make, people to take care of, including yourself, and you have likely been rational about how you’ve been allocating your time. So let the size of each slice reflect reality, without judgment.

Now outline your personal objectives for each slice.

Example 1: Your children

You want them to be safe and healthy, to feel loved and to help them reach their potential. If you could look back on every week and say, “I helped them achieve that,” you will feel great. The solution might be adding one weekend activity together that you plan on Mondays so that you both look forward to it all week long.

Example 2: Your spouse

You want to have a sex life with your partner. You want him to be helpful and you want to feel connected to him. Perhaps you commit to bi-weekly date nights and daily 15 minute evening check-ins over a glass of wine.

As you measure your satisfaction with achieving these goals, ask yourself what tactics you can use to close the gap without expecting that you are going to re-slice the time. This is how we are going to measure our lives. Slice by slice.


4. Give yourself the ingredients to succeed

We need to start sharing how we do make it work. Most women who have the career and the family have these ingredients:

  • A loving partner or form of support who shares in the childcare and home responsibilities
  • Guilt management skills
  • An ability to be present at work and at home
  • A “turn off the technology time” at home
  • An intentional focus on time management

If Indra Nooyi were running our lives, she would likely tell us that to measure success we need to use the right metrics. So let’s use our new yardstick and these ingredients to rebake your pie – your path to a more fulfilling life.

Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author, TV personality, radio host and speaker focused on work/lifestyle management. Connect with her at @samanthaettus.

To read this article on Forbes, please click here.

Samantha Ettus is a bestselling author & corporate speaker. The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction will be released in September.