From Last To First: Practice Makes It Possible, Not Perfect4:00 PM EST Tue. Dec. 04, 2012
As part of the CRN's Women of the Channel series, Avnet vice president Nicole Enright discusses best practices for balancing work and life. -- Jen Bosavage, editor
I recently wrote a blog about putting oneself first instead of last when juggling the many responsibilities we face as career women. Note to self: be careful what you write about -- someone might ask how you're progressing. So here I am to provide an update on what I've done differently and what I've learned since writing that blog.
Response to the blog was amazing. I received a lot of feedback, some questions and plenty of advice. One of the best suggestions I received was to keep a journal of times when I successfully put myself first instead of last. While I didn't keep a physical journal, I kept a mental one. Here are a few examples of when I succeeded in putting myself first instead of last.
Shortly after the blog published, I found myself faced with a dilemma. A small group of my friends had planned for months to stay overnight at a cabin. I was really looking forward to the trip and quality time with girlfriends, but as the date got closer, doubts crept in.
[Related: Women Of The Channel: Executives I Admire]
The selected weekend was packed with activities, which is true of most weekends. To make the overnight stay, I would need to leave right after my daughter's eighth birthday party. Plus, less than a week later, I would be out of town for six days on business. "Mommy guilt" set in. Now mind you, my daughter never said one word, nor did my husband. This was all "self-talk." I was feeling like a "bad mom" for spending so much time away from my family and I hadn't even left the house. I was worried that my daughter and husband would miss me. I wrestled with the decision the week prior to leaving. I had missed a previous girls' trip and didn't want to miss this one. So I went. Three things happened:
1. My daughter and husband were fine and had a good time together.
2. I had an absolute blast! I don't think I have ever laughed so hard or shared as much as I did that weekend.
3. I returned home recharged at a level that I hadn't felt in a long time.
Although I chose to do what I wanted, I didn't realize until upon my return, that the decision enabled me to be better in all of the roles I play because I was refreshed and renewed.
Weeks later I put myself first again. I had a rare day to work from home and catch up as my workload was particularly high. For some reason, I found myself really struggling to focus. I was worn out and stressed out. I decided to take 30 minutes just for me. I turned the music up (LOUD) in the house and I sang and danced. Afterward, I was in a much better mood and was able to focus. I knocked a week's worth of work out that day after my mini self-indulgent break.
I have learned a lot through this writing exercise. Some are from my own experiences, but most of it is from feedback and conversations initiated by this blog. Here are a few examples:
NEXT: The Art Of Putting Yourself First
We All Struggle With Prioritizing Precious Time
So many of the notes I received from the first blog were expressions of gratitude, such as, "thanks for putting out there what was in my head, but I never said out loud" and "thanks for letting me know I am not alone and that everyone, even those who you might think have it totally together, struggles just like me."
Putting Yourself First Has To Be A Conscious Decision
The only way to do this is to consciously think about what we need and want for ourselves. Stop making the assumption that by putting ourselves and our needs first, we are doing something wrong. I found that by being more self-aware (which putting this in writing helped me to crystallize), I was able to make a conscious effort to consider what I needed, sometimes in the moment, sometimes for the day or for the week. Think about how you are going to do it.
Putting Yourself First Is Different For Everyone
There is no one correct answer. What works for me won't necessarily work for others, but recognizing the challenge and consciously deciding how to address it is something we all must do if we want to find balance in our lives.
What I'm not saying is to always choose your own desires. I find that often what I want and need aligns with others' wants and needs. For example, I love to cook but rarely have the time. I also love to see my husband happy. Sometimes I cook his favorite dishes. They are time consuming, but it's something I thoroughly enjoy doing, and it makes him happy. Win-win! The same is true for my daughter. Just last week, it was important to her to get to school early so she could be the first to pass her mixed times test. (She is a tad competitive.) I rearranged some morning meetings so I could help her do what was important to her. By doing so, I found it was just what I needed as well.
I've had some wins, but I still struggle to put myself first every day. Sometimes it's just not possible because of the many roles I play (wife, mother, leader, etc.), and I alone am responsible for doing them well. But by paying attention to my own needs and wants, I am slowly, but surely, inching my way to better balance. And by doing so, I know I am approaching my work, marriage and parenting roles with more energy and passion than when I constantly let everything come before me.
Nicole Enright is vice president, strategic enablement services at Avnet Technology Solutions