TIME STAMP: 5 MINUTE READ
It was April 6th, 2007, when Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post Media Group, awoke on the floor of her office lying in a pool of her own blood. Having collapsed from pure exhaustion, Huffington hit her head off her desk, broke her cheekbone, and needed four stiches in her right eye. She deems this collapse to be “the rude awakening” that forced her to seek out medical help from various doctors, hoping she could find an explanation for the cause of this episode.
In the beginning, some doctors thought it could be a brain tumor; others assumed a heart condition. As it turns out, all tests came back negative and showed that nothing was actually wrong with Huffington. In fact, the problem and cause of her collapse was not due to any medical problems; it was simply a result of the overwhelmingly demanding lifestyle she had been living. In that moment, Huffington was forced to redefine what success meant to her.
So how does one redefine success? We re-envision it.
It often seems that the goal of “having it all” is impossible. We hear conversations about high-powered, executive women who are somehow able to defy all odds and accomplish incredible things in their lifetime, and we use this is motivation to achieve our own goals. However, chasing our dreams can be exhausting, overwhelming, stressful, and seemingly never-ending. Inevitably, we feel the effects of this stress in our everyday lives, and we start to believe that there is no “perfect picture” to work towards. Yet, what we don’t consider when comparing ourselves to these successful, powerful women is that they are a part of the small fraction of the population who can afford to hire help when they feel burnt out; but, for the overwhelming majority of working women who must fulfill two roles—that is, to be a mom and a professional—hiring help is simply unrealistic. So what happens next? We keep working, and our lives become more exhausting.
For busy, successful women, a full night’s sleep is rare to come by, and ever so treasured when it is. So what’s the sweet spot? How can we find a way to feel more rested and less sluggish in the morning? Some experts argue that mornings should be valued as a time to be productive and get a jump-start on your day, and therefore suggest going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. However, not everyone is a morning person; some of us actually get our best work done in the late hours of the night, and prefer to sleep in and work in the afternoons as opposed to the earlier mornings. The problem, though, is that it often is seems like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for working women to get everything done that they have listed on their to-do list, so they resort to setting their alarms for 5:00 a.m. in attempts to create more hours in their day.
Considering only slightly more than 4% of Fortune 500 companies are headed by women and they hold a mere 17% of board seats in these companies, it’s obvious why women feel they must overwork themselves in order to succeed, stand out, and prove their worth. But, the concept we often forget is that “hustling” doesn’t have to mean waking up at the crack of dawn and exhausting yourself until you collapse into a pool of your own blood. It shouldn’t matter if you decide to sleep in one day, or that you snoozed your alarm once more than your colleague. It’s what you do while you’re awake that matters, and if that means letting yourself take a quick rest during the day or even a 20-minute power nap, then so be it.
Don’t get me wrong: the science of sleep is ever so powerful. You can life hack your way into more productive mornings, but if you’re waking up before the sun comes out and struggling to get yourself dressed, let alone get any real work done, you are only harming yourself. In the long term, it’s about what you get done while you have the right energy to do it.
So how do we redefine success and get past the barriers that come with achieving our goals?
Perhaps it's making time once a week for a 5-minute stretch or meditation, as Sherly Sandberg suggests. Sandberg reassures us that there are no perfect workdays or schedules; the idea of “one road to success” requires us to be mindful around being aware of what success means to us personally. It’s simply couple of minutes we devote to ourselves throughout our work day that will allow us to come back feeling refreshed and energized.
- A Working Mothers Schedule -
6:00 a.m = Wake up call. Yes, I wake up to Bill Withers’ Lovely Day.
6:10 a.m. = Make a freshly brewed cup of morning coffee and catch up on emails to get a head start on the day.
7:00 a.m. = Shower and (attempt) to get the kids out of bed.
7:30 a.m. = Make the kids breakfast and get them dressed for school.
8:30 a.m = Drive the kids to school.
9:00 a.m = Workday beings; leading our daily editorial meetings where we’ll go through the calendar and talk about the corresponding programs we have at Business Insider.
10:04 a.m = Reading and online article about time management, because even though the workday just began, the deadline clock is ticking.
11:00 a.m = Conference call with the team to plan the upcoming Women in Tech event to innovate and to discuss Jane Wangs presence there.
12:00 p.m = Sushi lunch meeting with co-workers to discuss collaborations on upcoming projects, but I’m going to have to cut the meetings 15 minutes short because I have a deadline that I need to reach.
2:00 p.m = Brainstorming with my team. Starting to hit that afternoon crash—thinking about reaching for another coffee. I need to find a way to make it through this day; I am exhausted. But wait! It’s spring and sunny outside, so instead of coffee perhaps I’ll do a 5-minute stretch. I could even email my coworkers and see how they feel about having the meeting outside.
7:30 p.m = Finally leaving the office to head home. What should I do for dinner tonight? Oh wait, it’s my day to pick the kids up at day care. I’ll do that then focus on dinner. Should I resist the temptation to get take out and try to actually cook tonight instead? Ok, I’ll try. I’ll stop in at the grocery store after getting the kids.
9:00 p.m = Ok, kids have been fed. Now time to pack everyone’s lunches, lay out my outfit for tomorrow, and send a couple of work emails to finish up my day.
11:30 p.m = Ugh, 11:30 already? I was really hoping to get the chance to read a chapter or two of my book. I guess it’ll have to wait. Time to go to bed and get ready to wake up and do it all again tomorrow.
Arianna Huffington says, “If you want to change your life, you need to begin with changing one habit. The habit I changed was to go from four to five hours of sleep a night to seven to eight hours of sleep a night. That was transformational.” This shows us that it's the small habits we build in our day-to-day lives that will make a tremendous difference in the long term. It may seem hard at times and we may feel that we don’t have the time to make changes or risk throwing off our routine, but time is the only asset we all have. The real threat to the things we want in life is time. Whether it’s a creative pursuit, having children, or travelling the world, time is often the factor that stops us. So quite literally, as working Moms, it’s hard to have it all. But, we can prioritize what matters to us in order to find the time for what matters.