Work Life Balance

13 Work-Life Balance Tips & Hacks You Can Learn from Successful Female CEOs

Here at Balance the Grind, we’re super passionate about talking to female entrepreneurs and leaders to learn about how they juggle running a business and maintaining some semblance of work-life balance.

We previously had the opportunity to talk to 29 female entrepreneurs and founders about a typical (or not so typical) day in their life.

Below is a follow up piece where we talk to 13 successful female CEOs from wide-ranging industries about some of the best habits and work-life balance strategies they’ve developed over the years to help with balance.

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Lorena Sumich is the CEO and co-founder of KIXXFIT, a new health and fitness app that has recently just launched in Australia.

Set defining objectives for time periods, and work in an ‘agile’ way to achieve them. I also hate spending too much time in meetings so I try and carve out time during the day to actually do work!

Charlotte Lockhart is the Chief Executive Officer at The 4 Day Week, a company she founded with her partner, Andrew Barnes, the Architect of the 4 Day Week Global Movement.

Perfection is over rated and will often exhaust you, unless you are a surgeon! Try to make sure you take on what you can finish and commit to that.

There is always someone doing more, achieving more, earning more but you need to be the best you, not the best them. Ask for help, delegate, accept advice or criticism and listen to your loved ones, they will help you stay modest.

Dannielle Miller is the Co-Founder & CEO of Enlighten Education, Australia’s leading provider of in-school workshops for teen girls.

For the most part, I enjoy the diversity and stimulation my full-time work, writing, volunteering and life as a single parent offers me. I also learned very early on in my career how to prioritise the agendas that compete for my attention and how to set boundaries.

And on a personal level, I learned (the hard way) that too much time to navel gaze is simply not good for me. As writer Elizabeth Gilbert once eloquently confessed, “If I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something.”

Natalie Nguyen is the Co-Founder and CEO of startup Hyper Anna; an Australian data analysis software that taps into business intelligence and delivers real-time insights from natural language requests.

I try my best to solve problems. It’s human nature to avoid confronting issues or to pick the path of least resistance, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, especially when your team relies on you to make a decision. I make it my job to push through and solve hard problems.

My team and I stick to the “Get out of the forest” rule, where we always make a decision during a meeting before it’s over. The idea behind it is that if we are all lost in the forest, the only way out is to make a decision to go in a certain direction that may lead to the exit. You might make a wrong turn at a certain point of time, but at least you are moving closer to the solution rather than standing still.

Cortina McCurry is the CEO & Co-Founder of Caia, Australia’s first online on demand health and wellness clinic for women and their families in the workplace.

I don’t know if I would call it a habit or a mindset, but for me there are two mantras that are often playing in my head. The first being “win or learn” which is a great reminder to face my fears head on, giving each situation my all and taking risks.

The second being, “hold nothing too tightly” which is a great complement to the first mantra, and essentially reminds me that while I am making an impact through my work, I am not saving lives.

I try not to let my work define me, and when a crisis (or apparent crisis) arises I work through it methodically as opposed to letting anything related to work overwhelm me.

Stacey Bedford is the CEO of Bandzoogle, a platform that helps independent and DIY musicians build websites and manage direct-to-fan marketing and sales.

First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself. I often hear people say there aren’t enough hours in the day, but if you can make time for Netflix and social media you can find 30 minutes to go for a walk and clear your head.

Then make that a habit, like brushing your teeth. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed get to the root of the issue and address it head on. Don’t let the baggage build up; you can’t take care of a company or your family if you’re not taking care of yourself.

Making time for physical activity throughout the day helps to reduce my stress, and also making sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep. Next, you need to delegate work that you don’t have to be doing and trust your staff.

As a leader, you can’t get too involved in the details and you need to focus on the big picture. You hire people because they’re the best at what they do, and you can’t spend precious time meddling. It’s not good for you, them, and ultimately your business.

Corrie McLeod is the CEO of Hello Espresso, a group of companies which includes InnovationAus, a think-tank and public policy advocacy group, Espresso Communications, a full service consultancy, and One Part Idea, a content development agency.

Make peace with failure, and have a strong ‘failure’ plan to set you free. It helps pull everything into focus when you know that ‘the worst’ isn’t really that bad.

Secondly, I’ve learned to focus on what I am good at, and work with people to develop the areas I’m not good at. In trying to find balance and productivity, it’s liberating.

The other thing is committing to ongoing education, and this might in part be about working with people who bring industry skills and experiences that I haven’t had. I try and make as many events and trade missions as I can, and the trade missions particularly have been invaluable to keep inspired and energised.

The final one, and this is hard, is learning how to switch off and remember that nothing is ever solved at 3 am. Easier said than done!

Suzi Dafnis is the CEO of HerBusiness, a membership community that provides training, resources, mentoring and support for women who want to market and grow their business.

I don’t really believe in balance as an idea. I think that we go in waves and seasons. When we are gearing up to the launch of a new program, it’s all systems go and there are late nights and early mornings, and weekends when the team and I are ‘flat out’ working.

In between big projects we have time to tidy up, do post-mortems on projects and get a ‘breather’ in before we ramp up again,

For me, personally, self care and balance means going to the gym (I’ve done Crossfit for over 14 years) even in the busiest of times, maintaining a good diet and getting sleep.

Sleep is probably the first thing that goes out the window when I get busy. I’m getting better at recognising that good sleep has me have a much better outlook on life when I’m super busy.

I travel for work and play a few times a year and this fuels me too.

Jane Sydenham-Clarke is the Chief Executive Officer of Skyline Education Foundation, an organisation which provides support to gifted and talented students, from socially and financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

It’s about trying to be kind to myself and keeping some boundaries. Prioritising time for me and my loved ones. Doing the planning like I would at work where I need a plan – the same applies on a personal level.

My plan sits across a matrix that obliges me to consider my goals personally – spiritually, emotionally and physically; with family and friends; at home; professionally. Good plans include opportunities for growth and development – I listen to audiobooks and podcasts while walking or travelling.

Katrina McCarter is a Marketing Strategist, Speaker, Author, Advisor and CEO of Marketing to Mums, a marketing and research consultancy.

On Sundays I write down my three or four non-negotiable things I want to achieve for the week ahead.

No matter what comes up in my work week I try and stay committed to achieving those few things. I am also a good list maker and get enormous satisfaction ticking something off.

I’m currently building up my team to deal with an increasingly number of new clients. I still do all the client facing work however it allows me some added support.

Leanne Williams is the CEO of West Gippsland Libraries where she leads a transformation program across culture and technology, strengthening the community and ensuring the sustainability of the organisation.

A routine is essential for success. As a CEO you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. However a routine helps provide a little structure to ease the discomfort. A routine is also essential for success at home with the family and to avoid tantrums and arguments.

I am very deliberate in how I integrate work and family. I have never ever asked for permission to do it which meant that there was no opportunity for someone to say I couldn’t do it. I make sure that I am prepared (I always have a full packed lunch for my kids with their favourite foods) and that includes an iPad for them to watch.

Most importantly, I make time for me. This could be by getting a massage or having a lunch date with a friend. Again these are all pre-programmed in my calendar to occur each week or month so that I get the benefit of the routine and ‘me time’ without the hassle of having to coordinate it all the time.

Deanna Hutchinson is the CEO of Spatial Industries Business Association, a membership hub for businesses who use spatial information.

Listening to my body. This took years to learn! If I’m tired, I’ll arrange my work around recharging. I am one of those people who needs a lot of sleep (10+hrs).

If I’ve had a stretch of several particularly long days, I’ll try to go to bed earlier and sleep longer for a few days. I sleep well almost always.

I think this is because I reflect on the day’s achievements (even if something failed) and what needs to be done tomorrow before trying to relax for the night – closing the chapter on the day so to speak.

I am also careful about what I eat. I had gestational diabetes during my second pregnancy and I still follow a diabetes diet and fitness habit. It gives me freedom to eat what I like in moderation, and I have more energy than when I was younger.

Finally, I have a circle of professional colleagues/mentors who help me navigate the more challenging parts of my work and being a woman in leadership in STEM. This is invaluable and we have become good friends.

Victoria McLean is the Founder & CEO of City CV, an international career consultancy focused on guiding professionals at all levels with career transition and development.

I trust my team. This is my number one business tip – really take the time to recruit the best people you can. That’s not just someone with a strong CV (although that’s a good start).

You need to find people who align with your company culture and ethos. Also – and this is crucial if you’re an entrepreneur or start-up founder – someone who has the potential to grow and develop with you, as you grow and develop your business. It’s not easy, because you can’t just rely on gut-instinct.

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.