Microsoft's Alyssa Fitzpatrick: If You're Trying To Find Work-Life Balance, Just Stop

If you're seeking balance between your professional life and your home life, you're not looking for the right thing.

If you're struggling to find work-life balance, you're looking for the wrong thing, Alyssa Fitzpatrick, general manager of worldwide channel sales said Wednesday at the Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West.

"I'm tired of hearing about it," Fitzpatrick said. "I have a belief that the words "work-life balance" all together is a fallacy." Fitzpatrick said. The concept of balance implies that women are going to be able to put work on one side of a scale, everything else on the other side and somehow figure out a way to devote equal time and energy to both sides. That's just highly unlikely, she said.

Instead, Fitzpatrick advised that women set their own expectations of how they want to allocate their time, and then work to meet those expectations.

"Decide what is important to you, and that's going to change on a daily basis, a monthly basis, a yearly basis," she said.

Fitzpatrick pointed to an example from her own life on how time allocation needs can shift: the time is quickly approaching when her 12-year-old and two 11-year-old children will be headed off to college. This means she now wants to "pivot" to spend more time focused on them during the next six years while they're still living at home and she can still have the most impact and influence on them.

"I have a very short window," she said. 

For many women in the channel, pulling attention away from work to focus on home life or personal care comes with guilt.

"I always feel guilty about taking vacation but I've had great bosses who tell me it's more important to take time for yourself sometimes," said Ashley Fontes, communications manager for Tech Networks of Boston, a South Boston, Mass.-based MSP that focuses on non-profits.

Fitzpatrick offered some advice on how women can handle those feelings.

"First thing I want all of you to do is give yourselves a break," Fitzpatrick said. A self-described overachiever, Fitzpatrick said she now tries to get things done, not done perfectly. "Eighty percent is enough … we don't have to be perfect," she said.

She also championed the idea of eschewing a work persona that's different from who you truly are.

"If those two personalities are different it will throw your reality into a spiral," she said.

She also views sleep as an important tool in her arsenal.

"I highly recommend finding the number of hours you need that make you feel fabulous and then making sure you get that every night … Everything just seems to work better," she said.

As women struggle dedicate enough time to both their home and work lives, Fitzpatrick offered a final reminder.

"There is no 'work vs life.' These are not on opposing scales. Work and life come together," she said. "It's not a balance we're seeking to achieve, it's seeking to meet the expectations we set for ourselves."

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