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Work-Life Balance Tips from Star Jones

Women are busy. We take care of everything and everyone, balancing work and life and everything in between. According to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of women-owned firms in the U.S. is on the rise and is estimated to have surpassed 9.4 million (30% of all businesses in the country) generating nearly $1.5 trillion.

Now, that’s what I call busy to the max!

Like most professional women, I’m faced with more to do in less time. And—you know me—the busier I am, the more I love it! Women often ask me, “Star, how are you able to be everywhere at once? How do you balance it all?” Often, I remind myself to never get so busy making a living that I forget to make a life. There’s so much going on in our lives every single day. I’ve seen women try to power juggle their careers, children and families, plan for advanced degrees while trying to network and maintain that ever-elusive work-life balance. It isn’t easy. Believe me, I know!

At the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW), we encourage women to strive for balance when it comes to their personal and professional lives. By connecting with other like-minded women, it not only helps our careers, but also helps us to grow as people. Having a network of support to turn to for advice, resources and guidance, helps the women in our organization nurture the “whole person” and reminds them that they don’t have to go through any challenge alone.

Through self-management and altering our mindset, we can start taking a realistic approach to finding an even balance between work and life. Here are a few tips from yours truly to help you manage the struggle:

Think Ahead
Is it more important to spend time with family or finish a report that’s due in an hour? Think ahead and weigh your options. If spending time with family is a priority, finish the report later or get it done before. Yes, you always have a choice. The key is to accept your decision and move on. It’s up to you to stay calm and level-headed by remembering the realities of a personal-professional balance. By managing your options, you can plan all aspects of your life accordingly. To fit more things into your schedule, you can start your day earlier, prioritize what needs to get done now and finish the rest tomorrow. Work-life balance must be planned. It doesn’t just happen; realizing your role in its success takes prioritizing, understanding and a positive mentality.

Overcome Challenges
You thought ahead and prioritized, but then you were thrown a curve ball. You intended to have dinner with family, but an impromptu meeting was called and there was no way you could avoid it. What do you do? Stay calm, breathe and maintain your realistic approach as you overcome this new challenge to work-life balance. Attend the meeting with the understanding that your goals will be back on track tomorrow. There will be road blocks, bumps, dead ends and often times, things will fly at you when you never saw them coming. There’s no way to prepare for blind challenges, but knowing that we can overcome them helps to ease the transition from panic to patience.

Quality vs. Quantity
In today’s technology-obsessed society, we are constantly connected and the boundaries between work and home have become blurred. It’s important to take a step back from our hectic lives for a concentrated dose of inner peace and self-awareness. If you have vacation days at work and you haven’t used them, USE them! Make a conscious choice to leave work behind, whether it’s leaving your laptop at home or keeping your phone on airplane mode until you return from your time away. According to a study published in The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, distancing yourself from work is important for employee recovery and health—so clock out and dive into some YOU time! Quality time with yourself and the people you care about is more important than quantity time spent enjoying life’s pleasures. When you get back to work, you’ll be refreshed with a clear mind ready to accomplish your goals.

Learn to Say “No”
Say it with me . . . “No.” Many women find it difficult to say “no” to requests in the workplace without feeling guilty or jeopardizing professional relationships. Why do we have such a problem saying NO? It’s simple. As leaders and achievers, we want to do it all. We may be superior women, but we are not superwomen.

While I was a practicing attorney, I was working 60-70 hours a week. As a Senior Assistant District Attorney, I was responsible for caseloads of immense volume and importance that, literally, would decide another person’s life and liberty. I sacrificed seeing friends and family, I developed bad habits that would take years to correct and I even sacrificed my health while trying to do it all. It took some time, but I learned to say no. In fact, I’ve mastered the ability to say no. One of my mentors taught me a great technique to relieve the stress of trying to do too much, which has become my favorite way to manage being inundated with questions, emails and requests — I ask myself three questions:

  • Does this require a response?
  • Does this require a response from me?
  • Does this require a response from me right now?

Make Your Health and Self a Priority
Let’s face it, if Momma ain’t healthy, ain’t nobody healthy. In the midst of work-life craziness, we often miss the most important aspect of our lives: ourselves. An article published by the Mayo Clinic states that achieving a healthy work-life balance is important for your physical and mental health. It’s time to look forward and think about where you want to be five . . . 10 . . . 20+ years from now. If your answer is, “alive,” then you’re on the right track. It’s time to choose to live healthy and be in complete control of your life and body. Take it from me—a heart disease survivor—there’s nothing scarier than the thought of not knowing, or even worse, not living. Taking steps toward living a healthy lifestyle makes all the difference.

Network Conveniently
Women are multi-tasking achievers leading teams in corporate America, running their own businesses, managing their careers, raising families and working hard to succeed in every facet of their lives. I’ve always believed, women network in a different way. NAPW’s vibrant networking community encompasses over 200 Local Chapters that provide an online and in-person forum for women to promote their businesses, share ideas and expand their professional network.

At NAPW, we are constantly raising the bar, creating new and innovative ways to provide our members with the best resources, tools and platforms to succeed personally and professionally. With that said, I am thrilled to announce our ALL new National eChapter, NAPW’s first virtual networking Chapter—an exciting new benefit that provides a convenient way to connect with NAPW’s 775,000+ members across the nation and around the world. We don’t want our members to ever miss out on an opportunity to connect with one another—so we meet our members right where they are—at home, on the road or on the go!

Here’s to tipping the scales for positive work-life balance experiences!

Learn how you can become a member of NAPW – the largest organization of professional women in the country. Visit NAPW.com or call 866-540-NAPW (6279) to speak with a membership coordinator today. Tell them Star Jones sent you!

Star Jones is the President of Professional Diversity Network, a publicly traded company on Nasdaq (IPDN) and President of the National Association of Professional Women.