Perspective through Pie

Nina Golder KidsI am a “Type A” mom of two feisty girls under five, working professional, ultimate Frisbee player, active non-profit board member of Girls on the Run Austin AND social coordinator for both colleagues and friends. Like many of you, I am overscheduled and seeking to find that mythical concept called Work-Life Balance.

I was seriously out of balance a few months ago; spread too thin, running from meeting to meeting, event to event and working in the evenings until midnight. It seemed like I was always double or triple booked. And because I was constantly thinking about the next item on my to-do list and/or what I should be accomplishing instead, I wasn’t focused or present. Then, two things happened that made me realize I needed to make a change.

1. Halloween night, I was tearing apart my house searching for the blue and white checkered hair bows for my daughter’s costume that I had planned for and purchased months ago. My 4-year-old daughter had to tell me that it wasn’t a big deal that I couldn’t find the accessories because everything was already perfect anyway and I should just take a deep breath and calm down because it just “wasn’t a big deal.” I had a realization at that moment: my preschool daughter has more perspective than I do.

2. I was diagnosed with hypertension that is more than likely due to a combination of stress and not making diet and health a priority for myself.

Then came the Texas Conference for Women. Smack dab between busy meetings and a day out for jury duty. I almost bailed on something for myself (again). The Texas Conference for Women is an annual conference that focuses on empowering women. What you get out of it, is equal to the energy you put into it. I realized that the only thing stopping me from attending was my own guilt. Why was I going to throw away an opportunity to focus on my professional and personal development for one day? It ended up being a truly rewarding and inspiring day that put me back on track.

One of my favorite parts of the day was a workshop I participated in by Samantha Ettus, keynote speaker, radio talk show host and author of The Pie Life. Samantha is a Harvard Business School graduate who focuses on working with women to help them perform at the highest levels in their professional and personal lives. Here are some things that resonated with me from her workshop:

  1. A successful life is made up of many slices- career, family, health, relationships, community, friends and hobbies. The pie is a structure that allows us to achieve productivity and happiness by giving us a feeling of control. Identifying the slices that are important to you can help alleviate the sense of feeling guilty and allows us to compartmentalize our focus.

    I always feel guilty. I need to lose the guilt when I do things for me, for example going to said conference. And it’s true, I feel so much more balanced, present, and energized when, in addition to work and family, I get my workouts in, spend time with good friends, play Frisbee, spend time with my amazing fellow board members, get to attend conferences and be around motivating and inspiring people.

  2. Set healthy boundaries for work. Shonda Rhyme’s email signature gives us a peak into what makes her successful in managing her role as a television executive and mom. Sondra Rhymes

I probably won’t go changing my email signature. But the message here is to set healthy boundaries for work. I realized I already, sort of, do this. For the most part, from the moment I get home until the kids go to bed, I don’t engage or even think about work    activity.

3. Minor changes can yield dramatic gains. American Airlines saved $40,000 by removing one olive from each salad tray in first class. Minor changes can yield dramatic gains. A few tips that Samantha suggested after years of research: 

  • Decide fast and don’t look back. Constant decisions can consume us if we let them.

    I am so guilty of this one! I just spent too many late hours optimizing my flight itinerary for a flight to Boston, online shopping for the perfect teachers presents, and looking at tons of restaurant choices for my parents’ upcoming anniversary. Ultimately, I ended up with some of my first choices.

  • Take Advantage of the ‘Magic Hour’ - the hour before your kids’ alarms go off.

    I’m not up much before my kids and I often spend this time reading email which only makes me more stressed out about my day. If I was more consistent with this, I could probably squeeze in more time for quick workout, make my lunch, clean my house, the list could go on...I am challenging myself to do more in the magic hour, but step one is going to bed and getting up earlier.

4. The best pies are gooey, sloppy, delicious imperfections. Though piece slices are interconnected, it is critical to see them individually. When you think about your pie, avoid the temptation to consider only the slices that aren’t going well. The beauty of the pie method is that you must contemplate each of your six or seven slices every time you start wallowing in one or two of your crummy ones.

Emerson at Texas Conference for WomenI started off this blog by talking about how out of balance I was, but after the conference my perspective has changed a bit. I have so much to be grateful for! My work is challenging and rewarding and I enjoy my job, even on the toughest days. I’ve started back with yoga and also picked up golf. My husband and I regularly go on date nights and we play Frisbee together. I’ve reconnected with several old friends and made some new ones. I haven’t worked in the evenings (this blog, doesn’t count right?) in ages because I’ve been more focused and efficient with my time at work. The girls make me laugh every day. We restarted family weekend hikes (family time and exercise makes it a win-win!). I volunteered to mentor someone. I am reading again. I worry less about being perfect and more about being present. Perhaps, I wasn’t as imbalanced as I thought? I still have some things to work on, but now recognize that I am also doing a lot of things “right”. As Samantha Ettus might say, I was simply measuring it wrong and not taking the time to enjoy my delicious pie.

  • Nice blog Nina!  Thanks for a great blog on thinking holistically about a well-balanced, successful, fulfilling life.  You are certainly blessed.    It is nice when we make the time to take a step back and gain that perspective.