By Jenise Leaser
I used to think I was Superwoman; I was the ultimate worker-bee. Some might call me an overachiever. I had my list of impressive accomplishments, multiple degrees, and job titles. After all, isn’t this the have-it-all generation of women who can be anything we want? Our society tells us we can balance work, family, goals, and dreams while having a beautiful, organized home and rich social life.
It’s a fantasy.
While I believe women can accomplish anything they desire, there is always something you will have to sacrifice to achieve that dream. We can have it all, but it’s rare for a woman to have it all at the same time.
An increase in flexible work schedules has empowered women to accomplish more of their dreams while balancing family life. Yet it is still far too easy to over commit and allow our schedules to drive us. Family demands, volunteering, full-time or part-time work, education, and even housework all compete for our attention and rarely consider our other obligations. We must simplify and prioritize to achieve our most important goals. For me, I had to analyze what was most important in my life and what was directing my attention away from that.
We seek tips to earn extra income, balance work and family life, and organize our lives, but if we do not prioritize our goals, we are simply spinning our wheels. Even when we seemingly have made the hard decisions, bad habits can creep into our mentality and clutter our time with unnecessary obstacles to our productivity.
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Consider the following four exercises in making priorities (and I struggle with all of them).
Invest in Family.
While it may be obvious, our families tend to get the leftovers. How many times have we brushed aside an important member of our family because we have a deadline or are busy with something “very important”? We often float through family life on auto-pilot and address needs as they arise like a crisis manager. I invite you to consider your family’s needs and create family goals and dreams. Be intentional in the goals you want to accomplish within your family. Relationships take work. The days may seem long, but the years drift by far too quickly. If we do not stop and evaluate how we invest in our relationships, the opportunities will pass.
Set Goals Based On Your Desires.
What do you want to be when you grow up? What is your passion? What excites you? When you have a better picture of how you want to spend your life, you can create a strategy to work toward the life that you want. Many of us have financial considerations and other hurdles to reaching our goals, but without a plan to overcome those hurdles, they will not go away on their own. What steps can you take today to make those hurdles smaller? Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, illustrates this with the concept of filling your life with your big rocks first. Then all the little rocks and pebbles will find room in the crevices.
What Is the Reward?
Financial considerations and other responsibilities in our lives create a need for us to do things that we would rather not. Evaluate these responsibilities by looking at the good they bring. I despise doing laundry, but it is a necessary task in order to have clean clothes. A second job may not be something I desire, but perhaps it creates more financial independence to finally start my own company. These activities, though unexciting, offer worthy rewards. However, there are many activities and responsibilities we assume that add little enjoyment to our lives and do not fit within our priorities. Cut ties with those things that consume you with little reward.
Learn to Say No.
Women feel guilty all the time. When others ask us for help, we often feel obligated. Women who do not work full time outside of the home especially fall into the trap of thinking they have more free time than they do. Volunteering is a wonderful, rewarding way to give to our community. I might even consider it to be a high priority to volunteer for a specific cause. However, I may also find myself spending endless hours on some projects that do not merit the time spent. I often agree to things because my calendar looks empty, but I fail to recognize the time needed to accomplish my larger goals.
The same is true when I agree to certain frivolous social events or even something simple such as watching a movie. When I create a proactive approach to invest in important relationships, set goals for my desires, and make adequate time for those larger goals, I have successfully committed to the important things in my life. When those priorities are established, we should not feel guilty for implementing our priorities and saying no to the things that do not fit within those priorities. Our schedules are not as flexible as we think if we are focusing on the things that matter most to us.
Time is a precious commodity. It is not renewable.
Just as we should not go to the mall and spend money without a budget, we should not drift through our lives without being intentional in how we prioritize our time. Being a woman today should be empowering, not overwhelming. We can accomplish only so much as worker bees. Make your accomplishments worth the effort.
Jenise Leaser is a busy wife and mother of three and works on several projects for her family business.