by Ann Douglas
Feeling a little stressed? Struggling to keep all the balls in the air? You're certainly in good company. Studies have shown that the majority of mothers who work outside the home experience a chronic time crunch: there simply aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done.
I recently had the opportunity to interview more than 150 women who were attempting the ultimate of juggling acts -- balancing work and family. They shared dozens of practical strategies for juggling work and family -- little things like forcing yourself to take some downtime when you've been madly multitasking all day. Here are some of the "sanity savers" that I learned from these master jugglers -- tips for staying sane when you're struggling to juggle your working life with the rest of your life:
•Set reasonable working hours and stick to them. Swim against the tide of our workaholic culture and insist on taking time for yourself and your family. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty for turning off your phone or walking away from your computer for a while. Everyone has the right to a personal life, regardless of how much they get paid or which rung they're clinging to on the corporate ladder.
•Find a job that you love. If you're going to do something 2000 or more hours a year (and, frankly, you'll be putting in many more hours that that if you're self-employed or on the career fast-track!), you might as well make sure that it's something you enjoy. If you're not crazy about your current job or your present career path, there's no time like the present to start planning your great escape. And when you're coming up with a list of criteria for your "dream job," make sure that you've put "family-friendly" right at the top of the list. You want to work for a company that considers its employees and their families to be one of its greatest assets.
•Work with people you like and respect. There's nothing more poisonous to a working environment than having to work with a jerk. If you're saddled with the boss-from-you-know-where or a co-worker who just plain gets on your nerves, you might want to think about exiting stage left at the first opportunity.
•Put your support team in place. Whether you turn to family members, friends, or coworkers for support is unimportant. What matters is that there's someone waiting to cheer you on when you find yourself having a certifiably horrible day. And don't be afraid to wave the white flag and ask family members to pitch in with household tasks at home: there's no reason on Earth you should be simultaneously making dinner and folding laundry when the rest of the family is flopped out on the couch watching TV. (If they seem to think this is reasonable, they've clearly tuned into a few too many episodes of Leave It To Beaver!)
•Learn to cut corners on things that don't matter -- or give yourself permission to delegate them to someone else. Despite what you might have heard, there's no law that says that you have to make all your meals from scratch, clean your own house, and faithfully read every issue of Martha Stewart Living (so that you can come up with even more things to do with your "spare time"). Do enough housework to keep yourself from going crazy, but don't overdo it. Better yet, hire someone else to do your cleaning for you so you'll have more time for the things that really matter to you -- like spending time with family members and friends, or investing in your business.
•Take care of your own needs rather than counting on someone else to take care of them for you. No matter how great your boss, your partner, and your kids may be, it's your job to take care of yourself. This is one job you simply can't delegate.
•Keep your sense of humor. It's the ultimate weapon against the craziness around you, and the one thing that will keep you sane.