For something that sounds so simple, work-life balance can be pretty complicated to actually achieve. While many working women swear by the importance of establishing this balance, others contend that it doesn’t exist and it’s impossible and unrealistic to have it all. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, there’s at least some part of you that craves that magical feeling that happens when you’re simultaneously killing it on the job *and* enjoying your life. Is that really so much to ask?
One step in the right direction toward achieving that evasive work-life balance is harnessing the power of your personal passions. Figuring out a way to make time and space for the things you love to do — no matter how tightly packed your work schedule is — is key to maintaining happiness as you continue to chase success on the job. If you’re thinking, “There’s no way I can find time to pursue my hobby. Life is too busy!” — think again. We have it on good authority from 24 inspiring women that it is doable to prioritize those passions, as long as you’re willing to put in a bit of extra planning and preparation. Keep scrolling for a look at their hobbies and their tips for actually making them happen.
Job: Brand and Executive Communications Director, Ford Motor Company
What She Loves: Dance
How She Does It: Dance has always been an important part of my life, and I attribute a lot of my success at work to my experience in the dance world. I have continued to teach dance throughout my career, not only because I love the art (especially ballet), but because I believe those values and lessons that dance teaches are so important to pass on to future generations. The art has left such an impact on my life that I am motivated to spend my weekends and weeknights after work sharing my love of dance with others. These days, with the 24-hour news cycle and an “always-on” business environment, I believe everyone needs an outlet to break away and spend time focusing on something that stretches their mind (or body!) in new ways.
Job: CEO, OpenTable
What She Loves: Iyengar Yoga
How She Does It: Yoga brings together your body, mind, and breath awareness. As you’re moving through each position, there really isn’t much room for your mind to wander in unproductive places. There is also something about finding comfort in the uncomfortable — remaining untwisted in a twisted position — in yoga or in life. I make it a priority, in the same way I prioritize a staff meeting or my son’s hockey game. Saturday morning yoga is sacred. I’m a better leader, a better mom, and a better person because I’ve incorporated yoga in my life.
Job: CEO and Co-Founder, FINERY
What She Loves: Hamilton and Churchill
How She Does It: My hobby is Alexander Hamilton — anything and everything. And Winston Churchill. Anywhere they’ve been, I go. New Jersey for the duel, The Grange in Harlem, Trinity Church downtown for his grave. Winston Churchill’s daughter lives in my building, so that one’s easy to make time for. Curiosity doesn’t have to be a time requirement, it just happens. And when it stops, hopefully you have too!
Job: Co-Founder, FINERY
What She Loves: Antiquing
How She Does It: My humor, as well as my passion, start in my home. I marry the two with interior design! I love antiquing and finding one-off, quirky pieces that give my home personality. I’m lucky to spend most of my time off in two cities that have incredible antique stores — Austin, TX, and Asheville, NC — so my best opportunities to pursue this hobby are when I’m already intentionally taking time off for myself and my family. (Photo via Kristen Kilpatrick)
Job: Executive Vice President and General Counsel, American Express
What She Loves: Running
How She Does It: I hate the expression of “having it all.” You can have a full life and a great career, but you can’t have it all perfectly. You need to find the balance that works best for you. As a mother of five children and the General Counsel of American Express, I realize I can’t always do the afternoon pick-up, participate in the PTA, or cook dinner — but I have made it a priority to plan ahead, focus on what is important to my family, and be fully present in the moments when I’m needed most. I reflect on all this by setting aside time to run every morning through Central Park. As a former All-American track and field athlete, this is one of my favorite activities and an important daily ritual. It provides the space I need to bring my whole self to work and still have an incredible impact on my children’s lives.
Job: COO, Forever Labs
What She Loves: Being active outside
How She Does It: My favorite time to work out is first thing in the morning, which is tough now that I’m based on the West Coast. The rest of my team is in Ann Arbor, MI, so their day starts three hours before mine! By 6am, emails are starting to come in, and it became hard to prioritize my workouts. I realized the negative impact this was having on me, so I started making rules for myself. Rule number one is to get up, not look at my phone or computer, and get to a workout class three days a week. Rule number two is to take 15-minute breaks every few hours to go outside, play with my dog, and enjoy the California sunshine. If I get too busy, my dog gently reminds me that these breaks are not optional.
Job: CEO and Co-Founder, Clue
What She Loves: Reading
How She Does It: My morning routine is pretty hectic. I wake up at 6:45 every day to help my two children get ready for school. Trying to get them to eat breakfast and get dressed can be a bit of challenge sometimes, but we always seem to make it out the door on time! After that, I normally drive to work and arrive sooner than I need to be there. Once parked, I take a little time to read a few pages of a book before entering the office. It’s one of the few moments of quiet that I get during the day and it is really important to me that I nurture my own passions during this daily window. (Photo via Clue / Roman Schramm)
Job: Co-Founder, Orangetheory
What She Loves: Fitness
How She Does It: My favorite hobby is my own exercise routine, based on my specific needs. I know you’re thinking, “But you’re in the fitness business!” — but that’s the point. I am spending my days programming and coaching others, so in my spare time, I work on my own personal fitness needs — Pilates for my inside muscles and stretching for my flexibility, along with joint mobility exercises. I take my Orangetheory classes two times a week, usually finding time early before the day begins and/or on Sundays.
What She Loves: The lake
How She Does It: When it’s warm enough out, I love to bike, swim, fish, and go boating with my family at a nearby lake by Indianapolis. It’s close enough to get to easily, but far enough away to feel disconnected from the day-to-day. We keep it super casual and fun and make sure to prioritize taking these little getaways as a family to get a respite from busy workdays and school weeks. Even just a short weekend at the lake, away from the regular routine, helps us turn regular time into quality time.
Job: Partner and Global & Americas Risk Leader, EY
What She Loves: Friends, family, and fun (and the occasional guilty pleasure novel)
How She Does It: The first thing I do to make sure that I maintain enough time for myself is to set clear priorities spanning my personal and professional ambitions. Two of my personal priorities are being present with friends and family and taking care of myself while having fun. By defining my priorities, I can be purposeful around how I spend my time and stay grounded to what matters most. I am deliberate, for instance, about setting time for date nights with my husband, workouts with my sister, rest and relaxation at our cabin in Minnesota, and activities with my high school daughters. My favorite activities with my girls are volunteering for their speech and debate teams and shopping for those fashion necessities. Even through all my work and life commitments, I also try to spare some time for my guilty pleasure — reading novels you can find in airport bookstores.
Job: CEO and Founder, Hint
What She Loves: Hiking
How She Does It: One thing I always make time for is hiking, because to me, it’s not just a hobby — it helps me stay active, centered, and sane. It also gives me quality time with my husband and dogs! Every morning, I wake up at 5:30am to go for a hike with them through the Marin headlands so I can start my day with exercise and fresh air and ensure the rest of the day is set up to be healthy and productive. Even when I’m traveling, I find the time and space to go walking and (whenever possible) get into nature. (Photo via Cooper Bates)
What She Loves: Paddleboarding
How She Does It: I find that many of the challenges of paddleboarding are similar to building a startup: Balance is key, it gets harder if you slow down, and you have to go into the waves head on. Paddleboarding is my Saturday morning ritual. It’s one of the only times when I’m really disconnected from my phone and laptop, and it’s a great way to reset at the end of the week.
Job: Director of Content, The M Dash
What She Loves: Writing
How She Does It: It’s a bit weird to say that my hobby is writing, since so much of my actual work is, well, writing, but over the years I’ve found that I feel much happier and balanced if I’m working on some writing that has nothing to do with my job. Sometimes, it’s journaling; sometimes, I’ll work on something more creative or experimental — or just buy a card and write a nice note to a friend. I try to make time for this most often in the morning, but if I can’t fit it in, in the afternoons or evenings, I’ll set a timer for just 15 minutes and see what I can do within that window. It turns out that having such strict time constraints can really increase your creative output — a lesson that has also served me well in my working life.
Job: Software Engineer, Pinterest
What She Loves: Music
How She Does It: I enjoy singing jazz and R&B music, as well as playing the guitar. Recently, I’ve been performing at restaurants and bars in San Francisco for happy hours. Because music can be very therapeutic, I always find that playing a few songs will help lift my mood and de-stress [me], no matter how busy I am. Even though preparing for gigs can be time-consuming, just a little bit of practice every day will make a huge difference. Practice sessions don’t have to be long or intensive, just as long as you consistently stick to it every day. On an especially busy day, I usually like to squeeze in a few songs right before I go to bed. I also find that leaving my guitar out of its case and making it easily accessible will make me more likely to practice.
Job: Owner of inkWELL Press, Productivity Expert
What She Loves: Cooking
How She Does It: I’ve always had a love for spending time in the kitchen, but I went through a period in my life where my love for cooking had died. I wanted to bring back that passion I used to feel, so I’ve intentionally carved out time on the weekend to create a traditional Sunday meal — food cooked from scratch with dessert (because all really good meals need dessert!). My family knows this is my time for me and they might join me to help do a little chopping, or simply leave me alone rediscovering my love for cooking. (Photo via Jamie Larson)
Job: Founder, Skorch
What She Loves: Mountain biking
How She Does It: I don’t call my hobby a hobby. I think the term minimizes its importance in my life. If it’s just a hobby, it’s easy to not prioritize in a jam-packed schedule. Personally, I love to mountain bike. I make time for it because I see it as an essential component of my company’s success. Yep — for me, mountain biking is a business initiative.
Job: Founder, SugarlashPRO
What She Loves: Riding Vespas
How She Does It: I have to be serious when I’m in the office and have to get things done, so I make sure to keep my hobbies light and not overcommit! I tend to get into different things at different times — right now, it’s Vespas! After being in Prague, I fell in love with Vespas, and now I’m taking the long way to work every day and treating myself. Will the hobby last forever? Probably not! But I’ll be on to the next fancy and will have fun exploring it. The key is to make sure you’ll get to it by blocking it into your schedule at the beginning or end of each workday. I find that if I know I’m headed to my hobby right from work, I actually do it. If I go home first and then try to head out, I’ll crash and never leave the house.
Job: Vice President of Brand, MakeSpace
What She Loves: Flipping houses
How She Does It: While three kids under four and a job in the startup world is a doubly full-time commitment, I am currently working on two house flips in Brooklyn, one of which we are living in through the renovation! The experience of transforming a previously undesirable space both functionally and aesthetically is both exhilarating and fulfilling. It makes for a chaotic and dust-filled life for my whole family, but I think it’s important for my kids to see me put my hard work and passion into something tangible, something they can see.
Job: Director of Young Investors, Fidelity Investments
What She Loves: Running
How She Does It: Although my schedule is full of meetings and I’m often traveling, it’s rare that I don’t find at least a little time every day to get a few miles in. When I travel, I wear my workout clothes. This doesn’t make me the most fashionable person at the airport, but it keeps me in the mindset that I’m ready to run. If my schedule allows, the first thing I do after checking into a hotel is go to the gym. I usually run in the early morning, as I’m often speaking at evening events. To save time in the morning, I sleep in my workout clothes — sports bra and all! And when I’m running on a treadmill, I like to watch some of my guilty pleasure TV shows! I don’t make much time to watch TV otherwise (usually I’m reading a cheesy young adult novel), so running on a treadmill and watching my favorite shows is a great opportunity for me to multitask. (Photo via Fidelity)
Job: Founder, Tradeshow Bootcamp
What She Loves: Regular dates
How She Does It: My husband and I have four children that are eight years old and under. With their sports practices and the challenges of finding a babysitter, nighttime dates are few and far between. My husband and I have a standing Wednesday lunch date that we look forward to each week. The kids are at childcare, I work from my home office, and my husband works less than a mile away. It works logistically and allows us to carve out time for each other every week. It’s been great for our relationship and I wish we had started these sooner!
Job: Co-Founder and Chief Merchandising Officer, CoEdition
What She Loves: Interior design
How She Does It: I find the search for pieces a relaxing hunt. Often, you don’t know what you’re going to discover! At least once a day, I check in on 1stdibs. On the weekend, my husband and I often make an afternoon of making the rounds of vendors we like. It’s a way not just to see what’s new, but to take some alone time for us away from our workweeks. It allows us some time to catch up.
marah lidey and naomi hirabayashi
Job: Founders, Shine
What They Love: Self-care
How They Do It: We both do something called Self-Care Saturdays, where we try and take Saturdays to reset from the busy week. Whether we’re biking around Brooklyn with our partners, grabbing brunch with friends, or hardcore bingeing on Netflix, we try and take that day just for us so we can come back focused and energized for the week ahead.
Job: Host, theNewsWorthy Podcast
What She Loves: Beach volleyball
How She Does It: I work a pretty intense and non-traditional schedule, so making time to stay active and social is a huge part of keeping me sane! I combine a lot of the things I need for my personal life into one go-to activity. I’m lucky to live by the beach in Southern California, so I’ve fallen in love with beach volleyball. I don’t let being perfect at the game stop me from making it a passion. Still, it’s easy to allow work to get in the way, so I ensure I make time for beach volleyball by scheduling it in my calendar like a meeting and planning specific times with friends so they’ll hold me accountable. If I have a friend depending on me to be there, I won’t be so quick to brush it off to do more work.
Job: Founder, LAWLESS Beauty
How She Does It: After makeup, my biggest personal passions are yoga and meditation. My mind is always moving, and the only time I really feel it slow down and sink into a quieter place of stillness is when I’m doing yoga or meditating. I make time for my practice by doing it first thing in the morning before I start anything else. I wake up as early as I need to in order to fit a yoga or meditation practice in, because I know how much better I feel the entire rest of the day.
How do you make time for your hobbies and passions? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Featured photo via Getty)