By Alysia Eve
It’s no secret having children impacts our lives at home and in the workplace. It can feel like a never-ending battle, trying to organize our time so we can continue to contribute at work, being present at home for our families, and carving out much-needed self-care. The time we so willingly flittered away before kids is suddenly our most constrained and precious resource.
Many working parents, particularly mothers, accept the fact that having a family means career growth will slow. And they aren’t wrong. But working mothers can continue to progress in their careers by carefully establishing boundaries, freeing up time to focus on activities and projects that provide the biggest return for their investment.
Here are seven tips for establishing boundaries that can help propel your career:
Be strategic with your time and energy.
Not all work is created equal. A recipe for burnout is allocating all your energy equally across all projects or tasks at work, especially ones that have little to no ROI for you. Instead, create priorities and goals with your manager and focus your time and energy on meeting them. Having documented objectives also grants you permission to say no to activities that don’t support them.
See your time as valuable, and work to protect it.
One of the biggest reframes is seeing your time as valuable and finite. An easy way to start proactively protecting your time is to block your calendar when you don’t want to be available. Need to pick up the kids? Block your calendar. Want to work out at lunch? Block your calendar. Give yourself permission to say no to asks during that blocked time. Communicating value through scarcity levels up the perception of your time and work in the organization.
You can miss a meeting, really!
An implicit assumption in the workplace is we must press the “Accept” button on every meeting invitation that crosses our inbox. The reality is many meetings feel like a waste of time, and we take back time by saying no. When an invite comes in for a non-essential meeting, ask for agendas and/or specifics about the meeting before accepting. Decline meetings that don’t contribute to your priorities or fall during a time you are (or want to be) unavailable but offer to listen to recordings or even loop in a colleague who can assist.
Make your invisible work visible.
Women carry the load of invisible work, both at home and in the workplace. And while reducing tasks with little value and no visibility at work is a must, you can also make your unseen work an advantage. Do you typically take notes in meetings for your benefit? Send them out to everyone in the meeting, outlining and assigning the next steps and owners. Did you end up getting stuck organizing the upcoming quarterly business review? Take the high-level outcomes to other teams to help align the organization. Not only will this expand your network, but it positions you as a leader in the organization. Find more tips around invisible work in executive coach Helen Appleby’s book, The Unwritten Rules of Women Leadership.
Know your strengths and align your work to emphasize them.
Most performance reviews and management approaches encourage you to spend time improving your weaknesses. Knowing your strengths not only improves performance but also builds confidence, which leads to more leadership opportunities. It also allows you to prioritize your time effectively and make work more enjoyable. No one likes spending endless hours in areas of difficulty.
Don’t steal time from your future self.
We think we will have more time in the future, which leads to overcommitment and constant busyness. Before saying yes to a new project or commitment, think about the opportunity. Be honest with yourself about what you can handle, both now and in the future. If this impacts your work, talk to your manager and leverage your established goals to prioritize your time.
No one influences your time more than your manager, and you play a role in ensuring their success. Let your manager know about your commitments, both professionally and personally. Build relationships with your manager’s colleagues to help you understand your manager’s areas of focus. Invest time to understand your manager’s priorities so you can align your work to support them. Every manager appreciates an employee who makes them look good.
By taking command of your time and focusing your energy on the most impactful projects, working moms can lessen the feeling of burnout while still achieving their career ambitions.
Alysia Eve is an award-winning tech executive and writer. Follow Alysia on LinkedIn at Alysia Baker Eve.
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