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Farida Yahya: Is Work Life Balance A Myth? Here’s What I Think

Honestly, when I see other parents easily combine work with family, I ask myself if they have two heads or a hidden superpower I’m unaware of.

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Humans are social creatures and we tend to compare ourselves to others. I watch my friends with multiple kids and I can tell that any parent with more than a child would attest that multiple parenting isn’t easy. Honestly, when I see other parents easily combine work with family, I ask myself if they have two heads or a hidden superpower I’m unaware of.

However, over the years, I’ve come to realise that you’ll always meet people who will make parenting look like a piece of cake – including achieving work-life balance. But, I can bet that if you ask these people whose lives look ‘picture perfect’, majority of them wouldn’t be able to tell you how they figured it out.

The misconceptions regarding work-life balance are unhealthy because they encourage false expectations. We compare and envy other people. In the long-run, what you achieve is constant pressure, doubt about your abilities and burnout.

So, what to do?

Embracing that balance is an illusion

When you’re at work, be present at work. Understand that just like everything in life isn’t certain, some days of your life won’t go according to plan. There would be good days and bad days. The rule of the thumb here is to understand that this too shall pass. When you choose to make time for your family, friends or have some me-time, learn to stay away from your gadgets. There should be no reason for you to constantly check your phone, WhatsApp or email. When you are on vacation with your family, be on vacation. Teach your staff/team to be independent so that they can run your business efficiently without asking for your opinion for every issue or scenario that arises.

Learn to mix-it-up

Unless I’m extremely busy, I mix my schedule most of the time. For example, I schedule meetings or calls at the beginning and towards the end of my workday. In the middle/afternoon, I focus on time-intensive and high-level concentration tasks, such as formulating products for Lumo Naturals or researching about budget-friendly holiday destinations. The thought of knowing that I have already covered my meetings or business calls for the day makes me concentrate on the tasks I’m doing in the afternoon, hereby removing distractions and boosting my productivity levels.

Switch to tasks that would get you refreshed when you hit a brick wall

The rule here is to pursue multiple passions, irrespective of whether they are career or personal activities. For example, I run a show for female startup owners in addition to my day job as the founder of a natural hair care brand. This allows me to research about female startup founders that I want to promote or let people discover. Plus, it’s a welcome break because it engages a different part of my brain. What I’m saying here is that there are some tasks that would leave you bored or burned out. When this happens, swiftly change gears by engaging in another task that will allow you to rest and refresh your mind. It could be watching Shark Tank videos, reading a book, watching sports or a favourite movie.

Time management is important

I’m a time management advocate. At the same time, it’s a cliché concept. Why? Because even when you plan your schedule, unexpected events happen that could disrupt your entire schedule. I won’t even lie: as a business owner, I can’t completely go off the grid or free myself from distractions or enjoy a break 24/7 without thinking of my business. So what I do is to carefully select what I will do with my time. I spend my energy on engaging in the right activities at the right time.

You mustn’t work during off-hours. That’s a lie!

One of the exaggerated myths I’ve heard about achieving work-life balance is that you never have to work during ‘off-hours’.

Is this true? I don’t think so. As an entrepreneur, I don’t enjoy that kind of luxury. Sometimes, business issues have to be attended to during family time or while on vacation. Some of us cannot switch off to ‘family mode’ when we’re at home because we enjoy what we do so much.

Having a fulfilled life doesn’t mean always sticking to strict boundaries. If you need to work, go ahead. When there’s nothing you would rather do than to bond with your family, then don’t feel guilty of not doing anything work-related at that moment. Don’t allow the society pressure you into setting unbelievable expectations neither should you compare yourself to others or envy them.

Don’t let a lack of work-life balance convince you that you’re not living life to the fullest.

Farida Yahya is a 2021 Mandela Washington fellow, an author, Start-up coach, and social entrepreneur with over 10 years working experience in the media and development sector.  Farida Yahya is the 11th President of MWFAAN (Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association of Nigeria), a leading network of over 500 young leaders across Nigeria's 36 states and the FCT who are Alumni of the US state department's Mandela Washington Fellowship across the business, civic and public management tracks. She also founded the Brief Academy, a learning hub dedicated to developing and supporting female-owned startups to achieve wealth and scalability.  Farida is also the author of Redefining Beautiful, a book that discusses the realities of starting a natural hair business. You can connect with Farida Yahya on Instagram via her personal page @thefaridayahya

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