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5 Smart Ways To Upgrade Your Work-Life Balance

These steps can help you take things to the next level.

Workin' Girl

Whether you're working remotely, slowly trickling back into the office, or you've been an essential worker from day one of the pandemic, finding work-life balance is probably something that has become an elusive, frustrating goal. Nevertheless, it's an important one since Black households have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID—financially, physically, and mentally—and many Black professionals fill the ranks of essential worker jobs. Protecting your sanity and putting a focus on wellness are important since you'll need to be your best self to thrive in the current environment, especially if you're in leadership positions.

Some of us have already done the basics of shifting priorities or setting both physical and mental boundaries between personal and business, but what's the new work-life balance for today's version of normal? Try these five steps to upgrade and find what works for you, your job, and your lifestyle.

1. Assess what work-life balance even looks like—and how it might change from day to day.

If I've only learned one major lesson from the hundreds of powerful executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs I've interviewed in my more than 15 years in journalism, it's that work-life balance doesn't always look the same for everyone. We can often hit a wall when we try to fit cookie-cutter efforts into lives that might not be so black-and-white. True, the main principle of it all is to be sure you're not overworking yourself into burnout, but there is a such thing as burning out due to trying to create the perfect version of balance. It's a good idea to take some time to consider your daily habits, your lifestyle, and your work day obligations, when trying to figure out what work-life balance realistically means for you.

2. Set micro-goals for areas where a balance shift is needed.

Some of us have productivity down pat or we've been delivered from the procrastination demons of the past, but we still struggle with saying yes to that new workout routine or we totally fall short with being fully present for bae or the kids. Instead of tackling overall work-life balance in a macro way, try setting small goals that will lead to big results. Let's say you can't commit to an hour per day of workouts. Experts recommend starting out with 15-30 minute high-intensity workouts or spacing workouts out to every other day. If you find yourself totally confident in closing deals but not being present for loved ones due to lack of sleep, etch out some time to talk to a therapist, write in a journal, or use a sleep meditation app. All work and no play? Try starting a new mood-boosting hobby like crafts, gardening, or photography and make a project of it.

3. Get a coach or accountability partner.

Listen, the proof is in the numbers. Research has shown that more than 70 percent of professionals who get help in the form of coaching benefit "from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills." If you're trying to make new moves in the realm of work-life balance, hire someone who will help you. They can create a plan of action based on a change such as a new job, a recent health issue, a relocation, or a change in finances (whether a decrease or increase). They can also be your support through the process. Research coaches via the Web or social media and make sure they have references and actual results.

You can also tap into your network or join a group to find a great accountability partner to ensure that you're following through on your goals to find balance.

4. Use technology to your advantage.

Simple actions like setting an alarm on your phone for stopping your work day, nap breaks, or meetings can really help you create habits that help make work-life balance a priority. Treat your time like a lawyer or therapist paid by the hour, and let the alarm be your way of reclaiming your time, as our good auntie Maxine Waters says. Also, don't overlook built-in extras in your favorite apps or on your phone like the Screen Time feature on the iPhone or the "Your Activity" tracker on Instagram. Once you're able to see how much time you're spending doing certain things and you're able to set limits, you can shift that time into doing something that ensures more work-life balance.

You can also invest in apps that are specifically for finding or protecting work-life balance. Try TimeTune (Android) and ATracker (iPhone) to monitor how you spend your time and create scheduled tasks. Apps like Cozi house your to-do lists, journals, and shopping lists all in one place, while apps like Weekly Planner (Android) or Week Plan (for iPhone) allow you to plan out your week. There are also so many apps that you can use to meditate, schedule affirmations notifications, or keep you accountable for fitness goals.

5. Incorporate new wellness trends into your work day.

We all love a good sale, but if you'd like to upgrade in the area of wellness, it might be time to unsubscribe to some of those retail newsletters and sign up for fitness or mental health lists. Check out platforms like Black Girl In Om, Heal Haus, or Ethel's Club. You can take a workday break to check in on the latest trends via email and connect with others who are balancing their lives through wellness. Or try something new for your lunch hour: a "walk and talk therapy," "touchless" spa service, or a "distant reiki session"—all trends set to become more and more popular this year.

Are you a member of our insiders squad? Join us in the xoTribe Members Community today!

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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