How The Most Successful Women Schedule Their Work-Life Balance

Time is our most valuable resource. Some of us will have a lot more than others in the long run, but from week to week we are each allotted the same number of hours and days to get our stuff done. This doesn’t make us all ‘time equal,’ however, since the demands and expectations of how we use our time vary differently for different groups of people.

It is said that being poor is expensive; it is also time-consuming! – and for being poor, read any type of social poverty, not just economic. Women and some minorities and underprivileged groups are frequently subject to a number of drains on their time. 

Time-poverty is an intersectional issue. People who are paid less, people who bear a greater load of emotional and unpaid household or community labor, people for whom traversing space is particularly time-consuming due to disability, vulnerability, or oppression – all get lower value for their time.

It’s always inspirational to see how successful people from these groups use their time to their advantage.

A figure such as Jane Austen, for example, had a peculiar balance of social pressures to navigate. Unlike today’s big writers, who are pressured from without and within to perpetually promote their ‘brand’ on social media and through events, Austen wrote in an age when women were not expected to be so presumptuous as to write for publication, and certainly not for profit. During her lifetime, Austen’s published her work anonymously, which gave her the added pressure of keeping the time-consuming activity of writing a secret.

While Austen wasn’t rich (and her family suffered periods of near-ruin), she did have servants in her later life. There was still a lot of work to do around the house, and she seems to have benefitted just as much as from having a supportive, all-female household. Her sister understood the importance of writing to Jane, and co-operated in creating a schedule whereby Jane could complete her chores first thing in the morning – freeing her time and headspace to write until late afternoon, when the family would dine and then converse and entertain each other. Sadly, Austen’s assertion that “Composition seems to me Impossible with a head full of joints of mutton and rhubarb,” is a sentiment that a lot of women will still relate to, two centuries later.

(And of course Austen was not in a position to reject visitors on the basis that she was working, since her work was a secret. It an amusing (and novelistic) detail, it seems she used a squeaky inner door as a warning sign that somebody was approaching.)

Oprah Winfrey’s story is even more empowering. Born into poverty to an unmarried teenage mother in Mississippi in the 1950s, herself falling pregnant as a teenager and later stating that she was abused by male family members, today Winfrey calls the shots. The money Winfrey has accumulated is both remarkable and record-breaking (she was North America’s first Black multi-billionaire), but should not distract from the core story of a woman who survived everything the American Nightmare could throw at her and dedicated her life to telling positive stories, offering support and wisdom, and doing so on terms that were sustainable and indeed replicable by those she inspired.

Winfrey has attained retirement age, but it is hard to imagine her stopping work. However, the way that Winfrey schedules her day is geared towards self-care and respect so that she can remain strong and healthy even as she continues to pursue business and creative opportunities.

To see just how she divides her day, check out this new infographic guide to the daily rituals of creative women from BodyLogicMD. Inspired by the book ‘Daily Rituals: Women at Work’ by Mason Currey, it contains a wealth of ideas to overcome the structural inequalities that make women’s time a harder-won resource than it is for others. 

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