Ambitious women are often told that in order to be successful, they should achieve a healthy work-life balance. But some founders at the Female Founders Fund’s portfolio companies say that’s not a realistic goal.
“I think it’s in our nature to be consumed by what we do,” says Natalie Mackey, CEO of WinkyLux.
Michelle Kennedy, CEO of Peanut, also doesn’t believe in working towards balance. “Instead, I think of everything in terms of juggling,” she says. “I am constantly juggling home life, work life, and everything in between.” Instead of trying to give every aspect of her life equal attention, she makes an effort to “dial up on one area because it demands it, and not feel guilty for dialing down elsewhere and trying to plan accordingly.”
Whether you call it work-life balance or juggling, the goal is living the happiest, most productive life without getting bogged down by unnecessary stress, so here are some ways our F3 founders like to de-stress:
Read a book
Mackey tries to replace social media with reading every night. “In the evenings, I read only for pleasure,” she said. “No business books allowed after 9 PM!”
Sara Raffa of Coterie suggests starting a book club. “It’s a great excuse to get together with friends and helps ensure you always have a good book on your nightstand.”
Build exercise into your day
Selina Tobaccowala, co-founder of the exercise app Gixo, acknowledges that making time to exercise is difficult. “Do what you can to fit it in,” she says, recommending hacks like getting out of a rideshare a few blocks early to walk to your destination, taking a 15-minute class on an app like Gixo, and scheduling walking meetings to get work done while giving your body a break from sitting.
Kate Ryder at Maven makes time for “Pitbull dance parties” with her two-year-old, which double as family bonding time and light cardio.
“Taking a run with a booming playlist is one of the best escapes I can think of,” says Mackey. “I always find that I’m more patient, clear headed and creative after a good sweat session.”
Fact: making things with your hands — whether music, food, or art — decreases stress by lowering the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your bloodstream. Three F3 founders find creative outlets effective. Mackey dedicates a few hours per week to “artistic pursuits” like sketching and playing piano. “It gives me a chance to completely disconnect while keeping me engaged. Art, particularly music, is my form of meditation.”
Christina Carbonell, co-founder of Primary, enjoys sharpening her culinary skills. “For me, cooking is both a creative outlet and a way to connect with my kids. Lately, I’m into the challenge of making vegan recipes that my boyfriend will eat (and that are actually delicious).” She also finds that cooking makes for prime family time. “I find that baking and cooking with my now teenage kids is something they’ll actually do with me!”
Krystle Mobayeni of BentoBox started ceramics about a year ago. “In addition to being a creative and meditative outlet, my hands are literally too messy to check email,” she says.
Develop a routine…
“Our bodies love routines and the more you can give yourself some steadiness — the more you’re able to push yourself because your mind always has something constant to ground back to,” says Shivani Siroya, the CEO of Tala.She swears bymorning walks, and a set sleep schedule. “One thing that has worked really well for me is that I try to get outside first thing in the morning — even if it’s for ten minutes — and a walk around the block. It helps ground myself, wakes me up, and helps with jetlag.”
Anu Duggal, founding partner at Female Founders Fund, builds a 10-minute beauty or skincare ritual into her evening before bed. “It gives me a few minutes to reflect on the day and ‘turn off,’ she said. “It can be as simple as a Korean sheet mask, a Japanese jade roller session, an essential oil steam or a facial massage. It’s a great way to unwind, especially after a long day.”
…and know when to break it.
At least one night per week, Liz Wessel, CEO of WayUp, and her boyfriend put everything aside to have a date night, and they pull out all the stops. “It forces me to think about something other than work,” she says. Sometimes, they’re spontaneous enough to buy tickets for a show that night, plan an impromptu shabbat dinner, or go for dinner during a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.
Put yourself first
Lisa Skeete Tatum, the CEO of Landit, schedules time for herself before everything else. Next, she blocks time each day for her most important to-do items. “I make sure to stay involved with the boards I am passionate about,” she says. “It gives me perspective, feeds my soul, and allows me to bring a fresh perspective to my own company.” Then, she schedules key family events, “so I am there when it matters most.”
Meditate whenever you can
Shan-Lyn Ma, CEO of Zola, tries to meditate for about ten minutes every morning, which puts her “in a really good headspace,” she says. “I end up skipping some days when I’m running to a breakfast meeting, but the daily goal means I end up meditating a lot more than I used to, even a year or two ago.”
Sutian Dong, Partner at Female Founders Fund, is also a big believer in meditation. “I rotate between Shine, Simple Habit, and Headspace for five minutes of meditation a day,” she says. “It may be in a cab on the way to a meeting, but something is better than nothing.”
Focus on growth, not goals
Perhaps the best advice comes from Tala’s Siroya, who skips making a new year’s resolution each year in favor of a “word of the year.” Instead of putting pressure on herself to meet a goal, she asks herself: “what’s a quality that you want to bring into the year?”
“When you’re having a challenging or exciting moment, you whisper the word to yourself,” she says, channeling it. “It’s kind of a cool way to bring in a constant theme into the year that you make progress with, vs. having resolutions that you might not fully achieve, making you feel like you failed.”
Originally published on Medium.com.
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