Winning with the Hand You’ve Been Dealt

Often Life is compared to a deck of cards; you never know what you will get, so you do the best with what you got. In this card game called Life, women seem to be entrusted with more cards to deal with than their male counterparts. We may hold cards labeled wife, mother, aunt, parental caretaker, head of household, dedicated sister, employee, employer, best friend, or a combination these and more. Although we are all dealt different cards, each hand comes with varying degrees of difficulty and challenges. As a result, one hand is rarely better or worse that another. We must learn how to manage the hand we’ve been dealt using the resources available to us wisely.

I have been dealt the “Single Mother Hand ,” which includes cards such as “Nurturer,” “Disciplinarian,” “Teacher,” “Nurse,” “Head of Household,” “Sole Provider,” and “Miracle Worker.” In addition to the “Single Mother Hand,” I also have cards labeled “Parental Caretaker,” “Aunt,” “Extend Family Support,” “Best Friend,” “Prosecutor,” “Legal Director,” “Entrepreneur”, “Philanthropist”, and “Multi-Board Member.” Although I have been dealt a full and challenging hand, it’s doable. I have been blessed with a background and upbringing that taught me to survive hard times; and that encouraged early maturity. While my childhood was not ideal, I am grateful for the lessons learned and the strength gained to manage my Life’s hand.

Of the many lesson learned, there are seven that keep me afloat and encourage me to continue my pursuit of excellence, even when feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. They are 1.) Set realistic goals; 2.) Schedule everything; 3.) Keep to-do lists; 4.) Seek advice and assistance; 5.) Take care of yourself 6.) Stay positive; and 7.) Don’t quit.

Set Realistic Goals:

Women who wear multiple hats and juggle various responsibilities tend to lose sight of what normal and realist goals look like.  Operating from zero to 90 mph with a high level of stress becomes normal. As result, our goals tend to be lofty and impractical. Although the accomplishments of driven women may seem heroic, we must let go of this “superwoman” mentality and set goals that are attainable.

In order to set realistic goals, I have learned to start with the overall goal and then identify what steps are required to reach it. Those steps are accomplished through smaller goals and set in a realistic time frame. To ensure that the goals are achievable, write them out and revisit them after a few days to allow yourself to process what you have written. During your days of reflection, talk to trusted individuals and to those that may be affected by your plans to gain insight on the whether your goals are indeed realistic. Upon your revisit, ensure that you’re rested and have allowed yourself ample time to edit and revise your plans. Repeat this process at least once more to ensure your goals are realistic and to give yourself a sufficient foundation to achieve success.

Schedule Everything:

I often say, “If it isn’t on my calendar, then it does not exist.” When deciphering as many cards as I have been dealt, scheduling becomes of the upmost importance. To ensure that you deal adequately with all of you responsibilities, I suggest that you start by planning your overall daily schedule. Like when drafting your goals, ensure that your schedule is practical. As stated earlier, I juggle a lot of equally important responsibilities; thus, dropping one means dropping them all. As a result, my general daily schedule plans my entire day set in 30 minute increments. Everything including waking up; preparing for and driving to work; my work day for all jobs and boards; breaks and lunch time; exercise; quality time with my son; cooking and eating dinner; personal time; and sleep gets scheduled. Each task is placed on an Excel sheet and is color coded. This visual allows me to see where I spend the majority of my time and allow me to easily adjust when necessary.

In addition to my general schedule, I keep a working master calendar electronically that is also linked to my cell phone. I keep all business and board meetings; deadlines; doctor’s appointments, my son’s athletic and school calendar; vacation; social and any other significant events on this calendar. Each calendar item is set with two reminders – one hour prior and 30 minutes prior to each event. Again if an item doesn’t make the calendar (intentionally or not), it does not exist; thus, I make a conscious effort to ensure each item scheduled immediately upon receipt.

Keep To-Do Lists:

A vital key to success is staying organized. I found that having detailed to-do lists of work, family and personal tasks helps. Each day I start with prioritized work, family and personal to-do lists that are prepared the day before leaving work, and before turning down for bed. Each item on the list is graded from “A” to “D” depending on their importance and their time frame for completion. Items marked with an A are priority and must be completed before the day ends. If there is more than one “A”, then they each are numbered in the order of their importance. Once done with the “A” items, I move on the “B”, “C” and “D” items, which are handled in the same manner as the “As”. Ideally, the goal is to complete all items on the list; however, if at the end of the day items remain, I reprioritize them and put them on the to-do lists for the following day.

Seek Advice and Assistance:

Although women have been blessed with uncanny abilities to lead companies to unfounded success; be a doting and supportive companion; a nurture her children; and single handedly cure the common cold, we always need help. Therefore, it is important that we surround ourselves with adequate comrades, constituents and confidantes.  Building solid relationships with your comrades and constituents can alleviate stress and ensure the success of your team and personal goals.  But you don’t need many confidantes, just one is enough.  We all need at least one confidante to ensure balance and to motivate use to keep going when hard times arise.

Take Care of Yourself:

Because women often wear so many hats, we tend to forget about ourselves. Meeting that deadline at work; getting the kids off to soccer practice; ensuring dinner served; and the other items on our never-ending to-do list are our focus. So at the end of the day —midnight or so—all we want to do is crash, only to start the cycle over again the next day. But in the midst of this hustle and bustle we forget to ensure that we get enough rest, exercise, and quiet time. As a result, the mounting stress in our lives lead to health issues, such as ulcers, hypertension, weight gain, anxiety and depression.

Earlier I mentioned adding personal time to your schedule. Use this time to RELAX. Do what you like to do to wind down. That may be mediation, getting a massage, reading a book or just veg’ing out in front of the television; but take personal time for you. I also mentioned scheduling time to eat, sleep and exercise. DO IT. You will avoid future health issues that could force you to take an unwelcome break down the road.

Stay Positive:

Did you know smiling is good for your health? Dr. Mark Stibich stated in his article “Top 10 Reasons to Smile” that “[s]miling is a great way to make yourself stand out while helping your body to function better. Smile to improve your health, your stress level, and your attractiveness. Smiling is just one fun way to live longer.”

Remember that no storm lasts forever. Find the silver lining during hard times and do the best you can with the hand you’ve been dealt. Trust that when the storm passes, you will be stronger for it. So, hang in there Superwoman and DON’T QUIT.

Sheresa Alexander obtained her J.D. from Texas Wesleyan School of Law (Now Texas A&M School of Law) where she was the recipient of her graduating class’ highest honor, the Maclean Boulware Award. Additionally, Sharesa has an LLM from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

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