Khristy has been running up against that question for the first time in her career thanks to the pandemic. As our cloud-based business is booming, she’s found herself stretched thin, expected to run her team, take care of her two children, spend time with her partner, and not lose her mind along the way.
So, how did she find work-life harmony during a pandemic? Read about the 7 tips she has for you:
1. Learning to say no: the rule of three
Khristy’s first piece of advice is something she’s only just recently learned. “I have historically been a ‘yes’ person. People say I’m an overachiever,” she explains. “I say yes to things when I shouldn’t. But when the pandemic happened, it forced me to prioritize what’s important.”
Yes, that includes wellbeing and family and health, but Khristy is talking specifically about professional prioritization. “People don’t realize we spend most of our time at work. I want people to value my time instead of just throwing stuff over the fence to me,” she says.
To do that, she’s adopted a hard and fast rule: she only focuses on three things at a time, and she says no to everything else.
Those three things could be updating her budget, checking in on team morale, and building next year’s strategic plan, or any other set of priorities. The key is in keeping them limited to just three. “A friend told me that if you have more than three priorities, you’re not really prioritizing anything. Ignoring something can take just as much energy as focusing on something, so you’re better off saying no. I’m finding that’s true. If I can meet those three, then I can make room for more,” says Khristy.
2. Stay just the right amount of informed
Some people have been going on media diets during the pandemic, paring down the amount of news they consume each day. Not Khristy. She’s found that staying informed though trustworthy channels, as in certain news and science outlets instead of social media, is allowing her to keep focused on why we’re all making sacrifices.
“It puts into perspective why we’re doing this, why we’re in this situation, why we can’t go out,” she says. “It reminds you that things are not as bad as you think when you see the amount of people that are dying.”
She keeps that perspective for herself—her kids are happy, healthy, and actually enjoying remote learning—and for her team, who are all employed (Khristy retooled her budget to avoid layoffs) and safe at home with their families.
3. Cater to you
“To find that balance between teacher, mom, and employee in the same place and with the same hours allocated is really hard,” says Khristy.
“Being a mother, it's a very thankless job, and it's natural for us to cater to our kids, who are now always home. And then you also may have to cater to your partner, your husband, your boyfriend, whoever it may be. And we forget to cater to ourselves,” she says. “That’s when you get to that burnout factor, that pressing state of, ‘Oh, God, I’m just exhausted.’”
Khristy suggests finding one activity, any activity—“It could be scrapbooking, it could be going to Target, it could be paint by numbers or yoga,” she says—that is just for you. Something you can do alone and use as a bit of a retreat. “[Alone time] really resets my mind a little bit,” says Khristy.
4. Take actual time off
Khristy knows what you’re thinking: where are you going to go?
But just because you can’t travel doesn’t mean time off isn’t worth it. Khristy says she used to travel up to two weeks each month for work and go on at least one fun trip around California or nearby states every few weeks pre-pandemic, but now she’s learning how to take a different type of PTO.
“To be quite honest, even if you’re just having those days where you’re sitting on the couch and watching Netflix, taking time off really helps with a mental break,” she says.
5. Draw new boundaries
Khristy’s cue to turn off her work brain used to be the sound of her partner opening the door after his work day. But now that everyone works from home, that boundary has disappeared. “My compass is all messed up!” laughs Khristy.
Instead, she’s learned to set new boundaries on her time and how she spends it. First, Khristy has committed to only working in her office. “When I’m there, I work. Anything outside [of that space] is life,” she says.
And for timing, she’s made a new version of that dinnertime rule, setting it at a specific time versus waiting for her partner. When that time rolls around, she leaves her office and doesn’t return until the next morning. In between, she hangs out with her kids and enjoys the new rituals they’ve set up to make pandemic life more fun, including Taco Tuesdays and Saturday movie nights.
6. Stay connected
Months into the pandemic, Khristy realized she was struggling to stay focused. To combat that, she reached out to her peers.
“If I feel like I’m not on an island by myself—if I know that there is purpose to what I’m doing, that it’s moving the bigger needle somewhere—I feel like my time is worth something,” she says. “Keeping in contact with peers across the business in all different verticals has helped with that.”
Khristy stays in touch with catch-up calls and teamwide happy hours, which are focused on entirely random topics. “Last Friday we talked about cats and cat lady syndrome,” she says, smiling. “It uplifts the team and reminds us that we’re all fine. We ask how everyone is doing and we say, ‘We’re COVID good.’”
7. Remember that work is just work
“The saving grace,” says Khristy of what keeps her able to balance her work and her family, “is remembering what I’m doing this for. In the end, I’m working for my family, to give them a better life. That’s really the only reason.”
Keeping that focus in mind allows Khristy to live within the work-life boundaries she’s set up for herself, and she suggests others figure out what’s driving them and rigorously protect that goal.
“Some people leverage work to get them out of their lives. I don’t have that,” says Khristy. “My life is really good outside of work. Knowing that I don’t want to miss the moments that actually matter keeps me from spending too much time on work.”