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It’s never been easy to manage a demanding career while also prioritizing self and family, and for many women, this challenge is compounded by a persistent pull to meet everyone’s needs. They may be trying to be mothers, wives, bosses and managers without neglecting any of these roles, an approach that can quickly overwhelm. Fortunately, women no longer need to choose between the corner office and the nursery; they can maintain a satisfying presence in both, but need to know from the outset that navigating their demands requires commitment and organization. Successful women manage their time with the intention of increasing quality of life, in no small way by fully utilizing the resources available to them. Top female leaders share this outlook, as well as other qualities, and as a result are able to manage responsibilities with less stress and more satisfaction.
1. They set boundaries
Great leaders are capable of juggling multiple responsibilities, conceptualizing goals for different departments and leading a variety of personalities. They don’t get all this done by spreading energy all over the place, however, but by setting boundaries on their time and space: harnessing energy to be used on one thing at a time. So, a meeting about the newest marketing campaign needs to be only about that — not also about keeping up with texts. It also means that date night is only date night, and the same applies to attending your child’s soccer game. Compartmentalizing well in this way necessitates, however, that when someone asks you to move past a boundary, you say, “No.” If a client asks you to take on a project over the weekend, you decline, and when an email comes in at midnight, you flag it and save it for the morning. A boundary is not a flimsy wish, but a critical method of taking ownership of your own life and being as self-aware as possible. They are also critical to maintaining good relationships, especially with your spouse, kids, friends and colleagues.
2. They prioritize tasks
A satisfying life balance is about prioritizing, which means that you are consciously choosing what to do next, as opposed to just letting things happen. There are very real limitations on how much work a person can do — when it can be done and for how long. On top of this, given many and varied demands, it’s easy to become caught up in trying to be the ideal version of yourself rather than remaining true to who you are and what you want. Everything on your to-do list is not created equal — there will always be things that are more pressing than others, and it’s up to you to assess what must be done, what would be nice to get done and what can wait until tomorrow. When sorting tasks in this way, you’ll start to feel less pointlessly busy and spend time doing what’s truly important.
3. They take care of themselves first
The pressure seems ever on to take care of employers, employees, families and friends, all of which draw energy, and can end in exhaustion and burnout. Successful women incorporate self-care into their lives, no matter who or what is calling for attention — they intuitively understand that without wellbeing, no other action is possible. By taking personal time to that end —whether a walk or run after long meetings, meditating, a weekly trip to a spa or joining a support group with other women at work — they are actually making it possible to becoming more available to others.
But those in leadership positions are faced with challenges in this realm, too. They may worry that taking a vacation might mean being passed over for a promotion, or someone else getting credit and/or that an onslaught of work will await them when they get back. Whatever such concerns there are, it’s critical to set them aside. Taking the time to care for yourself will make you better equipped to do your job, as well as more available for your family, and make you a better and more engaged friend. By all means, start small if this concept is new: dedicate an hour a day, wherever you can carve it out, for something meant entirely for your rejuvenation.
More broadly, ask yourself how you can make life and work more complementary to each other. Think of creative ways to simplify, so that you can spend more time doing what you love, and identify and eliminate time wasters that take away from family time (and likely don’t produce visible results at work anyway). When you take smart steps like the ones above, you can truly have it all — be successful in every department — but it starts with smart choices.