There is no such thing as work-life balance. There is only life - everything else needs to balance
Yup, squeeze work and everything else you can into life. They say the key to this so called notion of work-life balance is time management. But how do you manage time if you have a workload of far more than 8 hours?! Which is what I suspect is the case for many a woman starting out in their careers or businesses...I would love to hear your feedback on how you get this right.
Routine and time management has never quite been my forte…I mean, yes, I generally wake up at more or less the same time every day and get ready for work – but when I get to work, I thank God that no day is ever the same or else I would literally pull my hair out from boredom. Likewise, I prefer to not do the same thing every single evening in my personal time. I established this as a student – 11 years ago (damn! Saying that made me feel so old) – I could never do study timetables – I tried a few times but I hated having to stick to what I felt was restrictive.
Sometimes I would begin studying accounting and when I was all accounting’d out – switch to tax or auditing. A little bit of variety was necessary to my existence. The same still applies now. I am so grateful that my current boss was so chilled about me studying a course this year. Yes the company pays – but it ain’t cheap (so I CANNOT fail!) but I asked to take up this course within 2 weeks of joining the company – I know many an organisation where so many rules apply regarding how long you have been with the company in order for them to consider paying for anything for you. This said, time is literally flying by! I write exams in the first week of November, and I have tons of content to get through and assignments to do in between before then – it is beginning to stress me out.
How do some women do it? There are some who are married, raising kids, running a household, their own business or a full time career, church activities, book clubs, making time for their family and friends, etc. Wow! How do they do it?!
My days of skimping on sleep are officially over - yes I think that happens to your body after years of doing it. I started this nasty habit when I was in high school – juggling studying and a job I worked every chance I could get, I remember in my matric final exams, I was literally only sleeping 2 hours a night – between 12 and 2am, waking up to study again and heading straight into the exam. Varsity was no different, between always needing to make some money and actually doing what I was there for (studying) and also trying to live a little – I got very little sleep. This habit trickled in to articles – where I found myself working overtime a lot, and then came the board exam – I pushed that matric habit again and am so grateful that this effort paid off. I swore never to touch a book again after I qualified lol. But last year, I was itching to feed my mind again so when I was thrown in many deals that consisted of property development, I did some research and got all the necessary approvals to do the course. I am learning so many relevant things! However, I am struggling to keep afloat.
Since I literally have about 3 months until the big exam – here is a tested game plan I have always used to juggle the pressures of life, working and studying at the same time:
1. Make sacrifices - Cut out socialising, watching series/tv or whatever it is that takes up time on a social level. My mantra is always “it will still be there when I am done studying”. Those who matter won’t mind this because they know it is for your own good in the long run. This to me is probably the most difficult part because I am such a liker of things!
2. Be disciplined – As I mentioned before, I do not thrive under the same routine on a daily basis, however – make the time. Carve out part of your day or weekends to just sit with the books. It doesn’t matter whether you stick to a study timetable or do it on an ad hoc basis, but commit to a weekly study goal and get through it somehow. Sometime it takes substituting one activity for the other to put in the time – back to making sacrifices.
3. Form a study group – studying is so isolating, and generally, I love talking! So luckily for me, I made a friend at varsity (whom I am still friends with, mind you) and we were both into our study group. It initially was a few of us but we branched out on our own and had an intimate group of two for a while, even for our board exams. We would each pick a topic and teach it to each other, but in a conversational manner. The learnings from these sessions have stuck with me forever.
4. Be consistent – with only 3 months left, I will have to put in a little bit of time every day going forward. Starting off strong, withering off and then going back in hard because the pressure is so real is never a good idea – I don’t know about you but I don’t deal with stress well. No one wants to feel like they are about to have a nervous breakdown because there is so much to do in the last minute! Remember that the way to eat an elephant is one small piece at a time.
5. Do try to live a little bit in between. Take a short break from the books – you do have to eat after all. I also feel that breaks are good in the sense that they make you feel so guilty about being away from the books that when you do get back to the books – you go in full steam. Also - we need to remember as humans - to always do what re-energises us. We are not robots, we do not have a stop and start button - we need rest and sources of energy. Whatever it is that energizes you - do it when you are tired.
Lastly, I would like to add that the success of anything you do is a battle half won in the mind alone. If you believe you can do it – you will find a way to and you will succeed. If you doubt, and fear failing more than you desire passing – guess what – that self-doubt already sets you up for failure mentally. So believe in your abilities J Believe you can. And surround yourself only with people who do the same.
That said – I procrastinated a little by writing this piece, so let me get back to my books!
P.S – To all the strong, beautiful, confident, ambitious and determined women who do it all for themselves out there – I salute you! Happy Women's month.