At the ungodly hour of 7:30 a.m., 29 female senior level executives are gathered around a conference room table. I am among them, seated at the table to share my work life balance insights. Instead, just during introductions, I get an eye-opening look at modern-day challenges of professional women who have made it to the top in their professions and want a fulfilling personal life. If you think earning a good salary makes the juggling easier, here's some enlightenment: These women must perform at the top of their game, while taking care of young kids, elderly parents, needy spouses and demanding clients, partners and customers. These are the tools they use to keep their business and home lives better balanced:
Office Location. Why drive 20-30 minutes when you can cut it down to five? Sheri Schultz, a CPA, reduced the stress in her life when she convinced her business partner to relocated the firm office. I helps that her parter is her understanding father. Schultz, the mother of three, says the shorter commute allows her to exchange drive time for billable hours, especially during tax season. It also allows her to zip over and pick her kids up from school. "Now I'm more productive, " she says.
Friendship. Make new friends but keep the old? Not always. Karen Zemel, board chair for the Jewish Federation of Broward County and a fundraising consultant has come to realize how important friends are to work life balance. For her, there's nothing better than sitting around with friends talking and drinking wine. But she's learned to be selective when blocking out time for friends. "It's important to let go of toxic relationships and stick with friendships that are meaningful."
Volunteering. Retirement isn't for everyone. Former attorney Katharine Barry, founder of H.O.M.E.S. Inc, housing for low income girls, discovered after her two children were grown, she was able to bring meaning and balance into her life by giving back. "I'm working harder than I ever did in my life." Yet, she says, she's completely fulfilled and says she has more energy than ever before.
Adapt to new situations. Key Transportation founder Orlie Jedwab recently married and instantly acquired a family. She finds herself a stepmother of four children. "I journal a lot and I think hard about what to let go and and what to work on." Jedwab says she carefully carves out alone time with her new husband, even if it's at 5:30 a.m. to exercise together.
Date night. Spouses need attention, often more than children. Banker Aimee Le Winter tries to keep normal 9 to 5 hours and spend evenings with her husband and puppy. But most female executives know an irate customer or unexpected client demand can extend the work day by hours without warning. When Le Winter finds she's worked late several days in a row, she'll make a date night with her husband.
Career change. Ask yourself a simple question: am I in the right job? Sheryl Greenwald called herself a banker for 30 years. She recently reinvented herself as a real estate manager at her family business. Greenwald says the new arrangement allows her to have the flexible schedule she dreamed of for years. "At least now I can watch my kids grow up."
Read more from my Miami Herald article: Learn how Randi Grant balances conference calls and manicures.