Paulette Senior is CEO of YWCA Canada, the oldest and largest multi-service women’s organization in the country. YWCA Canada’s serves as a voice for women dedicated to bringing about policy and legislative changes that reflect women’s needs. At the helm of YWCA Canada since January 2006, Senior has addressed women’s issues locally, provincially and nationally including poverty, housing and violence against women. She is the recipient of several awards, including MicroSkills’ Margot Franssen Leadership Award.
Most businesswomen would agree there are times when life is naturally out of whack because of what you have going on. The big question is, says Senior, “are you finding a way to get back into balance?”
For Senior, 46, achieving balance is not about looking at a static snapshot of life and calculating whether she’s spending 50% or 30% of her time doing this or that. “Balance is about how I’m feeling, my sense of happiness, my calmness, and whether I feel as if I’m making progress with what I’m taking on” she says. And because of the ever-changing roster of tasks, issues and concerns that she deals with, balance always comes and goes. The key is creating a process of continually assessing and re-introducing what’s missing in her life.
The first step is taking time to learn and listen to your personal signals. If Senior is out of balance, “my body tells me, my mind tells me, my heart tells me,” she says. For example, she may feel anxious and unable to focus, finds that her mind is racing, or that she just isn’t getting things done or achieving results that she’d like. “That means I need to get still,” she says. “It could be through meditation, exercise or yoga, something that helps me get a grip on what’s happening.”
Next, replace what’s being neglected. “For me, the signs that I’m out of balance means that I’m not exercising or I’m not eating properly. It means that I’m doing so much of one thing that the other things are suffering. Those things could be family, it could be my health, it could be my social life,” she says. “They are part of my life that keeps me balanced, but I recognize that sometimes I give them up for other things, then I have to put them back in place.”
Other strategies that Senior uses to re-introduce a sense of well-being include taking three week-long “unplugged” trips a year–without a laptop or her Blackberry. She also ensures she has a couple of trusted friends that can act as both personal and work-related sounding boards. “Sometimes we take on so much as women, and we think that we can handle it all. Instead, it’s better to say, ‘here are skills that I may not have yet, and I need to get some help’,” she says. “It’s OK to admit it, then build it or buy it.”