In honor of our Work It theme on LaurenConrad.com this month, I wanted to tackle the topic of work-life balance. Striking a work-life balance that you are comfortable with can be such a huge defining factor for your overall health and happiness. No matter how much you love your job, if you don’t feel like you are able to balance it well with other pieces of your identity, you probably won’t be happy in that position for very long. Yet even knowing this, so many people still struggle to find a work-life balance that truly works for them in the long-term. And let me tell you from personal experience—striking the right work-life balance only gets infinitely more complicated when you add a baby to the mix, like I did a year and a half ago. But like so many of the challenges that new motherhood presents, I took this as a learning experience. And I am happy to say that at this stage in the game, I’ve am better at things like time management and multitasking than I ever was before.
So today I thought I’d share a few of my best life hacks for finding your equilibrium on the work-life scale. I’ve learned these timesaving tips since becoming a mother, but most of them are applicable to anyone looking to improve their work-life balance, whether or not you have kiddos. Balancing work with any kind of relationship or other personal responsibility can be tough—be it a marriage, a puppy, or volunteer work. But it’s certainly not impossible and it’s all well worth the effort in the end. Check out my tips below…
1. Think about what time you need to get up in the morning, and then set your alarm at least 30 minutes earlier.
I’m not naturally a morning person, so this was a hard lesson for me to learn. But I really can’t overstate the benefits of allowing yourself extra time to breathe in the morning before starting your workday. Your morning sets the tone for your whole day ahead—and it can either be calm and pleasant or stressful and hectic. For my fellow mamas out there, you are well aware that babies and toddlers are notorious early risers. You’re generally considered lucky if your child is of the rare breed who sleeps past 7am. So convincing yourself to get up before baby takes major willpower, I know. But if you can manage to set your alarm a little earlier, you’ll be able to get ready without a toddler underfoot and then simply enjoy your time together with your family once baby is awake. Oh, what a difference that 30 minutes makes. And even if you don’t have a baby yet, rising with the sun has its benefits. It might mean you get to spend more time relaxing over a proper breakfast with your partner or taking a long morning walk to your local coffee shop with your pup. Whatever you choose to do, it will mean a little bit of personal time before you dive into work.
2. Prep everything the night before—and I mean everything.
If you want to have time to enjoy yourself in the morning before work, lay out your outfit the night before. And also pack your lunch, your gym bag, your work bag, and anything else that can possibly be packed up ahead of time. Trying to do simple tasks like making a sandwich are infinitely harder when you have a toddler tugging at the hem of your dress. And even if you’re not a parent, morning tasks are still more difficult to accomplish when you’re in a rush to get out the door. So since becoming a mother, I’ve gotten in the habit of prepping everything for the next day after my little girl is in bed. It’s another simple step I can take to ensure that I have time to just enjoy my precious family time in the morning.
3. Workout with your kiddo (or coworker or partner).
It’s pretty easy to let exercise fall by the wayside when you have a little one. Time is suddenly so precious, and it’s easier than ever to make excuses. When you’re a working mom, an hour at the gym—away from your little one—often feels like a luxury or even a trigger for major mom guilt. But in my personal experience, getting exercise is so important to your physical and emotional wellbeing. So the great solution I’ve found is working out with my little one in tow at least a couple times a week. We’re lucky enough to have parent-and-me yoga classes at our neighborhood studio, and I’ll also go on walks or hikes while wearing her in a baby carrier. If you’re a runner, getting a jogging stroller is another fantastic option. And for all of you non-mamas who still have trouble finding time to exercise, you can use your workout to multitask in other ways. Try having a hiking meeting with a coworker or business contact. Working out with your significant other is also a great way to spend time together while getting exercise. And as an added benefit, getting exercise and staying active will probably help you better manage stress, too.
4. Work from home part-time.
I realize that not every job can be done from home. If you’re a surgeon or a teacher or a chef, you’re probably out of luck. But even though this tip doesn’t apply to everyone, I still had to include it because it’s the number one thing I credit for allowing me to maintain a work-life balance that I feel good about. So if you do have a career that involves a fair amount emailing, phone calls, or work on a computer, it doesn’t hurt to ask your supervisor if you can work from home part-time. Even if you’re in a more corporate environment, many companies these days are allowing employees to telecommute at least once a week. Now for all my mamas out there, make no mistake in thinking that you’ll be able to get much work done at home without childcare. But working from home does allow you to save time commuting and also to be flexible with your schedule. On days that I work from home, I usually log in a slightly shorter workday so that I can spend as much time with my daughter as possible during her waking hours, and then make up for it by hopping on my computer again at night after she goes to bed. Having that kind of flexibility makes all the difference in the world for me, and means that I get to spend much more time with my child than many working parents do.
5. Know that it’s OK to let some things suffer—so cut yourself some slack.
There will be times in life when juggling work and your personal life will come easily. And then there will be times when your professional and personal responsibilities are both at an all-time high, and you wonder how you’re even going to make it through the week let alone the next month or year. Maybe you’re planning a wedding and in the running for a promotion at the same time. Maybe you have a small child at home like I do, while growing your own business. During those more hectic times, cut yourself some slack and take advantage of every modern convenience you can. Decide what you’re willing to let go of, and then let go without feeling the least bit guilty about it. In my case, I love to cook, but sometimes all we have time for is takeout. I really never minded cleaning the house before either, but right now it’s SO worth it to just pay for a cleaning service. Never, ever feel guilty if you can’t do everything yourself. Budget for conveniences if you can afford to, and don’t be ashamed to reach out to friends and family for help if you need to. Sometimes the key to feeling like you “have it all” is choosing which 4 or 5 things your “all” is made up of, and then compromising with the rest.
I hope those tips help some of you out there who are struggling with work-life balance! Also, if you’re a new mom, know that it can take time to find your rhythm. It’s totally normal to feel stressed and anxious when you first go back to work, but everything tends to work itself out.
What are your best tips for maintaining a good work-life balance?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.