The game is finding ways to do what is most important to you on most days.
I don’t believe in work-life balance. There are only 24 hours in a day and you can’t do it all every day. The game is finding ways to do what is most important to you on most days. You have one life with many dimensions—and you must find ways to integrate your work and your life in order to be the best worker, partner, friend, mother and self.
Practice life blocking
What’s worked for me is doing life blocking or what I call “life dimensions.” Life dimensions are the stuff that is most important to you. These will be different depending on your personality and life phase. In general, there are a couple of main life blocks: You have family, work, friends, community and—the last one that we often neglect—is ourselves. Don’t forget about you!
Dimensions are flexible, so it’s important to reorganize and reprioritize. You might not be able to always do all five of those dimensions equally. This depends on your current life stage, such as if you have a family, or you want to go dating or have a sick parent you want to take care of. We all have responsibilities, it’s not just people with children. We all want to have a life. You may just have to modify.
For example, if work and family are both important dimensions at one life phase, you might not be able to put as much time into your community dimension. Now that my kids are out of the house, my family dimension has changed. I have more time for community work, but I’m also spending more time with my parents. My dimensions are constantly shifting.
Mashup dimensions to maximize your time
If friends and exercise are also dimensions for you at a life stage where work and family are taking priority, you might combine two dimensions into one by inviting friends over to workout or taking a SoulCycle class together. For me, my personal and work friendships have always been an important life dimension. I’ve found ways to prioritize this dimension and I believe it is one of the keys to my success.
Have a “no regrets” policy
When I was a junior executive and mother of three little ones, I realized I had to shift some dimensions around. I made a promise to myself that I would live with no regrets. I never wanted to look back and say that I should have or could have done something differently. I realized early on in my career that no one at work would remember if I stayed late for a project, but my kids would remember if I missed something important to them. That no-regret policy became my North Star.
Each week I would fill in my calendar with the events that were non-negotiable for my kids. A soccer game on Tuesday would be marked in ink on my schedule if my son told me that game was important.
As a boss, I encourage the same policy and tell my employees if you're going to regret missing a family event or something that’s important to you, don’t skip it. Lean on your colleagues and share the work burden so you won’t miss something that you will regret.
I’m a big believer in rituals because I think they give structure for carving out time for the important stuff, such as spending quality time with your kids. I would take my kids to school every morning and we would stop at a coffee shop and I would get coffee and they would get a bagel and chocolate milk. We loved our mornings and would sit in the car talking and laughing. Those mornings with my kids were time we all cherished. It was the perfect way to connect and start the day.
Outsource where you can
Outsourcing where you can and where you can afford lets you focus more on your most important life dimension. You really don’t need to do it all, but it’s essential to your wellbeing and overall success to fit in what matters the most to you.
When my kids were younger, I hated carpool. Driving carpool didn’t help me with balance as I didn’t feel I was spending quality time with my kids. For me, it was stressful and a waste of time. So my solution was to hire a teacher from my kids’ school to drive them home and help with homework. When I would get home from work, I could really focus on my kids and engaging with them. I was lucky to be able to outsource like this as it was more important to me to have that uninterrupted time with my children.
Walk the talk
I think that one of the biggest problems with leaders is that they don’t walk the talk. They might say, “Oh, we don’t want you to work past 11 p.m.” But then you get an email from them at midnight and you think, “That’s not fair!” Lead with generosity. As a middle manager, give your team permission to live the life that you want to live, and expect the same of yourself as you do of them. This is how we’ll make progress.
This story was originally published on Forbes.