The elusive work-life balance for career women: How one Nairobi exec sees it

March 28, 2017
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IOD (K) Board member, Celestine Otieno, Chairperson Public Service Commission, Prof. Margaret Kobia and Chairperson, Women On Boards Network, Catherine Musakali go through the Women on Boards presentation during the Women Directors’ Forum 2017/FILE.

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 28 – Is it possible to achieve a balance between work and life? Is it possible to have a life that includes a thriving career that’s full of ambition and still has time for yourself, your family and even your community?

While many people, especially women, see the balancing act as a daunting feat, some have pressed the right buttons and conquered all spheres of their lives.

Rose Lumumba, an advocate and founding member of the Women on Boards Network and IFC Corporate Governance Officer, says it is possible.

“If you are striving to strike a balance between your work and your life outside the office, the first thing you need to do is differentiate the four domains of your life. And what are they? First of all there is self, then there is your home, followed by your work and finally your community.”

According to Lumumba, who is also a life coach, the four domains have to be balanced if you are to lead a happy life.

She advises those seeking to strike the balance to first and foremost be intentional in what they do.

“You should be present, giving your all in whatever you are doing at different times of your schedule. Do not be at home with the intention of spending time with your children but you end up spending the entire time on your laptop finishing up your workload.”

Second, she cautions people to put themselves first. According to Lumumba, it is impossible to serve others when you are unkind to yourself. In her words, “you cannot give love to others when you do not love yourself.”

Third, Lumumba asks people, especially women, to know when to say no. She explains that far too many people say yes while they should have instead said no. “Know when to say yes to that new job opportunity, know when to say no to office load and go home to your family.”

Do your best

Fourth, be the best you can be at what you do. “This is not about perfection, it is about giving your ultimate best in all areas of your life.” On this, she recommends people not to walk around with guilt because of failure in one area of their life, but to rather embrace all these areas and put their very best into the different roles.

Rose Lumumba, advocate and founding member of the Women on Boards Network and IFC Corporate Governance Officer

Fifth, block out time for work and play. “Do you have a technology free day? If not, create time for such. Get time to play with your children if you have them, go on dates with your spouse, take time and exercise, explore the world. Life is not all about work deadlines.”

Sixth, delegate. Lumumba, like most women, has fallen into the trap of attempting to be superhuman – to be everywhere doing everything, a move she says is wrong. She calls out to everyone, especially women, to delegate and allow others to help out.

Not Superwoman 

“You simply cannot try to be the one who cooks, cleans, looks after children, attends boardroom meetings, balances worksheets and supervises who came to work late. You need to divide your work and distribute it.”

Finally, Lumumba advises people to create appropriate boundaries around those four areas, cautioning against confusing and infusing them.

“The worst thing is to fail to draw boundaries. Office work shouldn’t come into your home, neither should the stresses of your home be carried into your job. You shouldn’t put your wellbeing on the line for your occupation. And you shouldn’t carry your private matters into your community.”

Have a successful week as you strive to strike that crucial balance!

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