Why You Can’t Find Work-Life Balance – Until You Take These Steps

Glad you stopped by, every Monday I’m featuring a guest post from an expert on the work-life merge. Today we hear from Kathy Caprino MA – Women’s Career and Executive Coach, Speaker and Author of Breakdown, Breakthrough.

Kathy Caprino

Women are more stressed and strained than ever, as these economic times have hit families, workplaces and corporate America so very hard.  If women’s plates were full before, now they’re piled sky-high, ready to crash to the ground.

Working with hundreds of professional women nationwide, I know that to achieve greater work-life balance or integration, we must transform on both the individual and organizational levels.  Individually, women need to take greater responsibility to reclaim the direction of their lives.  But we also need to shift American business culture today so that the extreme, 24/7 self-sacrifice demanded of professionals is no longer the norm.  My recent Forbes post addresses the need for work culture change.  Below is my take on what women can do to personally claim more balance.

1)     You’ve got to fight for it.

Corporate America was built on the foundations of a traditional “white male competitive career model” that simply doesn’t fit a vast majority of women.  Jack Welch’s recent comments represent common thinking that there is no work-life balance, but these ideas are outmoded, and sorely out of touch – they don’t reflect the future, and what’s going to be the new frontier for the American workplace. There will be a new model created by future generations – one that honors women’s needs, priorities and values.  But we’ve got to fight for it.

If you’re being asked at work to do the impossible (accomplish the work of three people, work until 3am, produce meaningless analyses and reports, come in for 7am meetings that are unproductive, etc.), then you MUST speak up.  Fight for what’s right and sensible and good business practice.  If your team is breaking down along with you, you simply can’t continue this way.  You must speak up and fight.

If you can’t advocate for yourself on your own (because you’ll be crushed down by the machine), then find another way to make your voice heard.  Build a collective forum of women who can speak together, or find empowered sponsors and leaders who can speak for you.  Or go outside the company to networking meetings and events, and learn from others how they are making a positive difference, and making it work.

2)     Make your partner a real partner

Women have made far more headway in the workplace than in the home in the past thirty years.  You simply can’t live a productive, fulfilling life when you’re working like a dog at your job, and then come home and work like a dog there too.  It’s not sustainable, or healthy. Most women I know (including me) are perfectionistic overfunctioners – striving for A+ in everything and doing more than is necessary, healthy or appropriate. If this is you, then your family and friends are used to your overfunctioning, and they (subconsciously) don’t want you to stop.

It’s time to ask your partner/spouse, children, and others for support, to do their share, to step up to their responsibilities as fully-functioning members of the household.  And explore hiring help where it’s essential and where you can.  Your husband may complain and say he can’t do any more.  If so, sit down together and calmly analyze the distribution of labor, and make it fairer.  It’s up to you to do this.  Others won’t volunteer to put more on their plates.

How can you stop overfunctioning? Shift yourself internally first – and commit to stop doing too much.  Decide what you’ll scale back on, then promise yourself you’ll stick to it.  Choose discomfort over resentment.  Then share your plan outwardly with your family, and ask for support.  There will be some anxiety or upset initially as they discover that you’ll no longer do everything.  But when you do, you’ll find a new, healthier balance and stability, and everyone involved will learn and grow from it.

3)     Stop being angry and start being accountable.

Finally, it’s time to stop feeling angry, disrespected, resentful, overburdened, and powerless.  If you experience these emotions regularly, your life is asking you to grow, strengthen, and be accountable for how you are living and what you’re creating.  No more excuses.

I know how hard this is to accomplish (trust me, I’ve lived through the breakdown, and come out the other end, to breakthrough). And I also know this to be true – when you realize that you have the power to change what’s in front of you, breathtaking new possibilities and positive life experiences open to you.

So, today is the day to claim more balance.  Figure out:

1)  What specifically are you angry and exhausted about

2)  What are you taking on that’s too much – more than is healthy, appropriate and necessary

3) Why are you doing it?  What are your deepest fears around not doing everything, and being everything? What consequences are you deeply afraid of, if you say “no”?

4)   To whom do you need to speak up?  What must you let go of?

5)  Is it a new job or career path you want?  If so, download my free Professional Breakthrough Toolkit – it will help you understand where you are today, and what you long to create in the next chapter of life and work.

Today’s action step – Don’t waste another minute blaming someone else.  It’s your life – claim it.  What one person, action, or limiting belief can you say NO to, today?

 About the Author:

Kathy Caprino, M.A., is a nationally-recognized women’s work-life expert, career and executive coach, and author of Breakdown, Breakthrough. Founder/President ofEllia Communications, Inc. — a career coaching and executive consulting firm dedicated to helping professional women achieve breakthrough to greater success and reward — Caprino is a Forbes contributor, and a top media source on women’s career issues and trends.  For more information on Kathy’s private coaching and new yearlong Career Enhancement Series for corporate women, visit www.elliacommunications.com.  Connect with Kathy on: Twitter, FB, LinkedIn