As an executive, a creative and a mother of four, I’m often asked about how I balance it all. And the answer is: I don’t because it’s impossible.
To be successful, we are often sold articles about how we have to wake up at 5 a.m., drink celery juice and focus on one thing. Those methods neither work for me nor do they honestly describe my life. Most of us have so many other aspects of ourselves in addition to our work that are important, so for me, balance is the wrong goal to set.
I’m interested in finding a way to live the fullest life as a person: as an executive, a team leader, a parent, a sibling and a friend. That means that while my days have clear structure, they’re not always structured the same way. It’s far more dynamic and messier than articles would have us believe.
What has helped me manage my own self-care is regularly scheduled times in my calendar for friends, gym and my own personal curiosity. If these times are not scheduled, I risk missing out on the things that bring me joy. This recharge of energy keeps me creative and inspired for all the other roles I play. For the last few years, for instance, I learned to bake and make chocolate like crazy. It was a personal hobby, but it also brought all sorts of new ideas that I could apply to other parts of my life. And the biggest act of self-care is getting enough sleep.
Before Covid-19, I would wake up, have coffee, and my partner and I would get the kids to school quickly so that we could train together outside before work. Now I don’t even bother to set an alarm clock because with four children, I have four alarm clocks. Working from home is one thing, but working from home with children is another. And parents don’t get the credit for this massive effort.
When quarantine began, some elements of the way my team stayed inspired simply moved online. We have weekly talks Wednesdays at 2 p.m. where we invite a creative thought leader to speak. This has simply been moved to Zoom. While this approach doesn’t allow us to have the same connection with our team members, being remote enables us to hear from speakers all over the world without being beholden to a physical space.
We have 150 designers across our business units. When shelter-in-place began, we quickly decided to focus on how to add a bit of fun and connection to our meetings that we missed from real life. Both of those elements are so important to creativity. We created an online group for our designers and posted photo assignments every day, like “What does your desk look like?” “What are you hoarding during Covid-19?” “What’s your go-to work from home outfit?”
Everyone posted, and it was interesting to get to know each other on another level that we wouldn’t have if we were still in the office. It’s deepened our connections, and it’s also a joyful gallery to review.
We’ve also been able to invite a larger design community into our public events. Previously, we only offered spots to those who could attend in person in New York, but now we realized we could open up our professional events to designers internationally. Social distancing has given us a push to play with how we deliver our events and programs online, resulting in extremely positive outcomes. I’m thrilled to now be able to attend these digital events more regularly in the evenings. I’m also excited to experiment with hosting global events through livestream regularly and exploring more flexible work from home ideas with our team when we head back to the office.
At the end of the day, the goal for me is to do my best to show up for my team, my family and myself. There’s no set equation to achieving this, and it helps not to have the pressure of balance as a requisite to a happy life. I’m often trying to be in many places at once to not miss too much of what life has to offer.
Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m OK with that. I’ll take being flexible and inspired over rigid any day.