Last week in New York City at the Forbes Women’s Summit you could hear a pin drop as Microsoft executive Lori Wright shared her personal story of career burnout. Wright described her “catastrophic burnout moment” in her twenties – a time when she was burning the candle at both ends and realized she needed a change. As a young professional who was throwing herself into her career, Wright looked around one day and realized the person she had become was not who she really was. She was so focused on building a great career that she neglected every other area of her life, from working through family vacations to not seeing friends or taking care of her personal well-being.
She called her boss and quit a job she loved.
Wright, now the GM of Microsoft 365, uses that experience to help find balance in her life as a busy mom, executive and community member. One of her biggest life lessons is that working women can’t have it all and must make trade-offs.
Women are under a lot of pressure to be perfect in everything they do. Scrolling through Instagram or flipping through a magazine showcases women who seem to do everything perfectly—great careers, clean houses, well-behaved children, a strong marriage, community involvement, fit bodies and much more. But Wright wants women to realize that the idea of being perfect at everything is an illusion. No one is doing everything perfectly every day, and a big part of self care is giving yourself a break and realizing you can’t do it all.
The key is finding balance and trading off. Wright recommends laying out all of your responsibilities and then identifying the critical moments in each area. It could be that being at your kids’ soccer games or school pickup is critical for your family responsibilities and being at board meetings or employee trainings is critical for your work responsibilities. Critical moments are different for each person.
Be deliberate with your time and make sure that you show up for the important moments. As Wright says, once you leave college, you never get straight A’s in life. Instead, make the moments you need to get an A in for the day a priority. One day you may get an A in work and community involvement and a C in family responsibilities, but it balances out when you get an A in family and a B in work another day. What matters is that you’re there for the important work moments and the important family moments, as well as moments that are important in other areas. Time is finite, and accepting that there are trade-offs can be powerful in your work-life integration and overall success.
Wright also says it is important to help others along the way, especially other women. Every woman has a magic wand she can use to help someone and make another woman’s life easier. As we work to be more deliberate with our time, we can be honest and open about what else matters in our lives. Instead of only keeping work things at work and family things at home, we can bridge the gap and create more trusting relationships.
Wright sums it up with her advice to her younger self: enjoy the journey. Even with the trade-offs and challenges, there is joy in every day. Take the pressure off yourself to do everything perfectly and instead look around and enjoy the view.
Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, keynote speaker and author of “More Is More.” Sign up for her weekly newsletter here.