9 Lives for Women Blog

Avoid Work-Life Balance Whines | February 26th, 2013

Though corporate America has a long, long way to go in shaping flexible work practices, I have often said that women haven’t stepped up to the plate. Playing the “victim” role and running out of the workforce after little more than a casual ask for flexibility does not, in my mind, constitute making a professional and business case for your work-life balance desires.

That’s why I love Cali Yost’s “5 Insanely Simple Work-Life Balance Short-Cuts from People Who Have It All”—a practical, non-whining, action-inspiring article that originally appeared on the Fast Company web site.

Since 2002, as I’ve helped thousands of women stay in or return to the workforce, I’ve been a fan of Cali’s work. As a consultant, speaker, and founder of Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit–and one of Mashable’s Top 14 Career Experts on Twitter–she shows organizations and individuals how to partner for award-winning flexible work success. She is the author of Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day, and you can read more of Cali’s strategies on her Work+Life Fit blog and on Twitter @caliyost.

Unlike so many others, Cali doesn’t just point out the same old frustrating facts about women’s workplace issues or fire off complaints. Instead she’s focused on solutions and her “5 Insanely Simple Tips”, excerpted below, do not disappoint.


For almost two decades, I’ve worked in the trenches helping to make workplaces more flexible and giving people the tools and skills to manage the fit between their work, career, and personal lives. And, in the process, I’ve discovered a group I call the work+life fit “naturals.”

The “naturals” are the people whom you would describe as “having it all.” I estimate they represent about 10-15% of the people I encounter. They seem to fit work and other parts of their lives together with ease while the rest of us struggle.

To spot a work+life fit natural, whenever I engage with a new company, I ask to be introduced to “two or three people who seem to manage everything they need to get done without breaking a sweat.” The client will say something like, “Oh, you should meet John. He has three kids. His wife works. He’s a triathlete and runs a not-for-profit on the side. Honestly, I don’t think he’s human.” Then I meet John. Usually, he’s less super-human than his colleagues perceive him to be from the outside, but he does consistently make what matters happen as often as possible.

How do John and other work+life fit naturals do it?


  1. Make it your responsibility to decide what matters, and when to get it done–no one else is going to determine or prioritize it for you.
  2. Don’t keep separate work and personal calendars or priority lists. (Fast Company likes Clear, if you need an app.)
  3. Frequently take stock of what’s working and what’s not–because it’s always changing. Put that on your calendar.
  4. Schedule time for small, manageable steps in the areas of your life you’ve identified as important–instead of just identifying huge, lofty goals.
  5. Focus on and celebrate what does get done, not what falls by the wayside–small or partial steps are better than nothing.

When I first started to share these insanely simple secrets a few years ago, people would push back and say, “I already do that.” I knew they didn’t but I needed proof to convince them to embrace this practice of small changes with big impact.

I decided to have people complete a basic, four question questionnaire. Over the course of a few months, more than 240 answered the questions and this is what I discovered:

75% agreed that “on average, I actively manage my work and personal responsibilities and goals daily or weekly.”

40% agreed that “I always keep a calendar with all of my personal and work to-dos and goals in one place.”

26% agreed that “On average, I set time aside daily or weekly to check in with myself and answer the question, “What do I want?”

Only 15% said, “When I see a mismatch between what I want in my work+life fit and what’s happening I make adjustments, always.”

In other words, yes, the respondents thought they managed their responsibilities on and off the job deliberately and with intention. But most made their everyday choices using an incomplete picture of what they had to accomplish at work and in their personal lives. Even fewer regularly reflected on what they wanted, and almost no one always took the small steps to close the gap between what they want and what’s happening on and off the job.


The good news, according to Cali, is that by following these five simple steps, we all can become work+life fit naturals. No whining necessary. —KAS


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