Striking Balance: Achieving Work-Life Harmony
Maegan Bradshaw, February 9, 2024
In the pursuit of our passion for advocacy and making a difference, it's easy to find ourselves consumed by the noble causes we champion. Yet, it's crucial to remember that taking care of ourselves is just as essential as the work we do.
Advocates are often immersed in dynamic, high-stakes environments, advocating for causes close to their hearts. However, ensuring a positive work-life balance is vital for sustained impact and personal well-being. Balancing the scales between our commitment to advocating for change and our well-being is a journey worth embarking on.
As an advocate, partner and mom of 2, student, lover of naps, and social butterfly, keeping balance has been a practice I’ve struggled with. Short term I felt stressed most days and like there was never enough time to do ‘all the things’ in 24 hours. I knew I had to make long term changes and find new habits to feel more balanced in the day to day. Here are some tips from my journey to live a more balanced life:
· Set Boundaries
Boundaries is one of RAFT's favorite words. Our first workshop is entirely dedicated to talking about boundaries - how to set them and stick to them. Advocates are often driven by their passion and dedication to their causes, making it easy to overextend themselves. It's crucial to set clear boundaries to establish a healthy work-life balance. This includes defining working hours, days off, and limits on work-related activities outside of these hours. Communicate these boundaries to your colleagues and superiors to ensure everyone is on the same page.
A workplace boundary that I have set is that I do not take meetings on Fridays. After a week of meetings and working diligently through the week, I commit my Fridays to catch up on work and winding down.
· Prioritize Self-Care
Advocacy work can be emotionally taxing, as it often involves confronting challenging issues and advocating for marginalized communities. Prioritizing self-care is essential for maintaining mental and physical well-being. Incorporate activities like meditation, exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones into your routine to recharge and reduce stress.
My favorite self-care practice is to turn on my favorite playlist and drive around town.
· Delegate and Collaborate
Advocacy work is a team effort. Delegate tasks and responsibilities when possible and collaborate with colleagues and partners. Sharing the workload not only reduces individual stress but also fosters a sense of camaraderie and support within the team. RAFT's 2023 research shows that advocates identified collaboration and more opportunities to partner with colleagues was a priority to improving their work conditions.
· Time Management
Effective time management is crucial for maintaining a work-life balance. To stay organized, utilize tools like calendars, task lists, and productivity apps. Prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance, and avoid procrastination to prevent work from spilling over into personal time. My favorite time management strategy (from an ADHD individual who really needs structure to function effectively) is to begin every day with a to-do list for the day's tasks. I also address any task I didn’t get to the day prior. From there, I rate them on importance and how much time they will take to complete. It’s a great start to my day and helps to keep me focused throughout the day.
Pro-Tip: Use a paper planner, it helps so much to pen to paper your goals and celebrate your achievements as you go.
· Learn to Say No
Advocates often face numerous demands and requests for their time and expertise. Learning to say no in a positive way is a valuable skill. Prioritize your commitments and decline additional requests when you feel it would negatively impact your work-life balance. RAFT uses and teaches the "Yes. No. Yes" tool.. which coaches us to use our core values to stay true to our boundaries when making the decision to answer with a “no.” (Here is a worksheet to help you find your core values)
Yes – Saying yes to yourself, your core values, and your boundaries
No - A positive "No" starts with what you're for instead of what you're against. Focus on what you want, your core interest, and what matters to you. This way, you are not in opposition to someone else's demand or behavior. Instead, you can rely on personal core values.
"I have plans this weekend with my family. I cannot cover the hotline for you."
Yes (optional) - After you have said "no," you could create an invitation for a positive outcome. Tell the other person what you don't want and what you do want. So, as you close one door, you may be able to open another. This second "Yes?" must be something you are comfortable and willing to do. It is not a compromise or an accommodation that will stress or upset you. In some situations, there may not be a second "Yes?" to offer.
"I'm not scheduled for the hotline next weekend and can cover a day for you then."
· Flexibility and Remote Work
Many advocacy organizations offer flexible work arrangements and remote work options. Consider discussing these possibilities with your employer to accommodate personal needs or family commitments while maintaining your advocacy work.
· Seek Support
Advocacy can be emotionally challenging, and it's important to have a support network. Connect with like-minded individuals, mentors, or therapists who can provide emotional support and guidance. Sharing your experiences with others who understand the unique challenges of advocacy can be therapeutic.
RAFT shares the importance of seeking your trusted network in our workshops. It requires that you choose to share your story and create change over separating and isolating yourself. But, when reaching out and sharing your story it is important to do so with someone you trust. Who should you reach out to?
To Build your Trusted Network identify:
3 people at work you can connect with
3 people who share your worldview
3 people you can call when you’re having a hard time
· Reflect on Your Impact
Regularly reflect on the impact of your advocacy work to maintain motivation and prevent burnout. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small, and remind yourself of the positive changes you've contributed to. This reflection can reignite your passion and sense of purpose.
I’ll say it again: pen to paper to do good for reflection. Here’s a blog from our ED, Jeremie, on creating a gratitude journal.
· Disconnect When Needed
In our digital age, it's easy to be constantly connected to work through emails and social media. Set boundaries for when you'll check work-related messages and when you'll disconnect completely. Being unreachable during your personal time is crucial for recharging and maintaining a positive work-life balance.
· Flexibility and Adaptability
Recognize that there will be times when your advocacy work demands more of your attention. During these periods, it's essential to be flexible and adaptable with your work-life balance. Once the crisis or pressing issue passes, make an effort to rebalance your life.
Balancing a career in advocacy with personal well-being is challenging but essential for long-term sustainability in this field. By setting boundaries, prioritizing yourself, practicing time management, and seeking support, advocates can achieve work-life harmony while continuing to make a meaningful impact on the world. Remember that taking care of yourself allows you to be a more effective advocate, benefiting both you and the survivors you’re advocating for.