Category Archives for "Work & Life Balance"

What You Need To Do To Get Flexible Working

By amandaalexander | Business

My latest Inspiring Women Interviews Podcast has just been broadcast on and . This episode is an interview with Tina Freed, founder of E2W and a champion of flexible working to support talent retention and attraction.

Tina has been helping highly talented women in the city to continue with their careers since 2002, when she and her husband formed E2W, a company with this objective as its primary driver.

Tina’s philosophy is:

“Flexible working is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity – and we can prove it” 

Before setting up E2W Tina worked in the city within financial services for over 15 years. When she had a baby, she realised that the choice, then- 16 years ago – was to either have a child OR have a career – not both. But she didn’t think that was right, so she did something about it.

She saw a gap in the market –  the opportunity for people like her to continue working in the city AND to fulfil her aspirations as a mother were nonexistent, so she started her own business.  E2W was created so that Tina could be a mum without sacrificing her career.

She knew that she wasn’t alone in wanting this balance, so she set out to find a way to offer flexible working for women who wanted to develop their hard-earned careers and still be a mother.

She also felt that the city-based firms that she’d worked for could benefit from the experience of such women, and potentially it would be a much more cost-effective way of using these talented women.

Tina sought to tap into the big resource pool of mainly women who’d left the city when they were excluded from financial institutions, because those firms couldn’t offer that true work-life integration. E2W set up offices where the women lived, as opposed to where they were working. This obvious solution helped women to overcome the challenge of juggling the daily commute with childcare.

Tina understands that flexibility means different things to different people. Some want to work short days, some want to work 3 long days. For others, an ideal flexible working week might be a traditional 9-5 day, simply because they are currently working 6pm -11pm.

Whatever people’s definition of flexibility, the point is that there are may different patterns that companies can put in place to enable women to continue to work. It starts with thinking creatively.

 “Some of our employees work 9:30 to 2:30, and they do as much in five hours as they would if they went into the city and worked eight hours.”

Many women in middle management face career stagnation, not advancing because of a fearful mindset about the scarcity of opportunities for professionals that also advocate flexible working patterns.

These talented women feel that they can’t leave their current company or seek promotion, because they won’t be able to retain the same level of flexibility they’ve enjoyed.  There is a commonly held belief that flexible working patterns are only offered to those who have served their time and proven their loyalty.  This results in many talented women staying in roles that they have outgrown, simply because they see it as the lesser of two evils.

Challenging a limiting mindset is one of my favourite things to do as a Coach, and it’s also a big driver behind me launching the Inspiring Women Interviews podcast. I want women to learn from role models who have proven that it IS possible to combine a great career with having a life!

I’ve coached many such women over the years and I know that the only way around this is to challenge them to be courageous. Often easier said than done, of course, especially when well-intentioned family and friends reinforce the fearful belief.

My clients frequently tell me that their partners or parents urge them to keep their head down and make the most of it –

“You’ve got a good thing going here, it’s not that bad – don’t rock the boat”.

We need to actively support and encourage more women to challenge the status quo, perceived or otherwise. Ultimately it is up to them. This requires courage and often a suspension of disbelief, but also confidence in their abilities.

Tina agrees: She encourages women to thinks about what they can offer, how they might be able to support a new company, and to position themselves from this perspective.

“It’s about saying, ‘Look, I’m valuable. I have lots to offer. I have lots of experience that you would benefit from. For me to be able to do this, I would like to work in a flexible way. Flexibility to me means … Whatever it is’.”

I encourage the women I support to change their internal language from:

“But why would they employ me and offer me flexible working?”


“Why wouldn’t you employ me? Because I can do this role and make a valuable contribution.”

Attracting and retaining middle management women is crucially important to filling the leadership talent pipeline. There’s an onus on companies  to give these women explicit permission to  step up and fulfil their potential. This means that employers need to be open-minded and creative about flexible working and communicate this position loudly and clearly.

But equally as important is the onus on women themselves.  They need to take a deep breath, screw their courage to the sticking place and step up.  Try this for a career affirmation…

“Flexible working is not an obstacle, it’s an opportunity – and I can prove it”

And then… go and prove it!

Keep reading . . . now that you know what you need to do to get the career you want AND flexible working, I’ve created a fantastic, 3-part video coaching programme to help you with the confidence you’ll need.
Career Confidence 101 will help you get clarity on your strengths, focus in your career direction and the self-belief to achieve your goals.  However, the full Career Confidence 101 coaching programme is available for a VERY limited period. Within about a week, it will be shortened and you’ll get part 1 only. If you want to get all 3 coaching sessions of Career Confidence 101, sign up now!
to sign up for Career Confidence 101
Career Confidence 101

The Best Gift for Women Who Are Trying to Get Things Done

By amandaalexander | Guilt

Have you seen any of those provocative memes on social media that warn people not to mention Christmas until 1st December?

I don’t comment that I covertly started buying my first Christmas presents in October, when I happened to see an advert in a paper for toys that I thought my nieces would enjoy.

When my youngest son mentioned an author he likes, I checked Amazon one evening and pre-ordered his latest book for Christmas from shhh.. you know who. Also in October.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those incredibly organised people who finishes all their Christmas shopping by 1st November and who has written, addressed and stamped all their cards ready to be sent on 30th November.

But I AM a woman who is mum to two boys and aunt to three girls.

And I am also a woman who thinks about what we’re going to eat every evening and who plans, shops, cooks.

I am a woman who suddenly remembers, smack bang in the middle of my working day, that my youngest son mentioned his friend’s birthday party next Saturday. Who emails the boy’s mum to ask for details, because the party invitation has gone astray.

I am a woman who makes packed lunches every day and constantly reminds them to pick up their towels, make their beds and clean their teeth. I am a woman who drives her eldest son to football practice, with 15 minute notice, because he’d really like to go.

And as well as all that, I am a woman who runs a business full time.

In short, I’m a woman who is constantly trying to get things done.

So when I see those social media memes that tease people who start thinking about Christmas in November, I quietly wonder if their life might be a little less jam-packed than mine!

I suspect you will get this completely! Whether you start thinking about Christmas in November or not!

Because for so many women who are always trying to get things done, particularly at this time of year, the dial is turned up high on freneticism.

The danger is that you constantly feel as if you are falling behind or that you have not done enough.

You might feel that you are somehow not efficient, fast, smart, disciplined, organised enough. You may have a running commentary in your head at the end of the day chiding yourself for what you DIDN’T get round to.

The multitude of amazing mini achievements that you DID clock up are mentally ticked off without a second thought. You probably rarely stop to acknowledge yourself.

The cumulative impact of feeling like you’ve never quite come up to scratch is insidious. Mental self-flagellation becomes a painful habit. It’s as if you are fighting the same battle day in day out, that always ends in defeat and despondency. How can you ever catch up? Get it all done? When will you ever be enough?

So I wanted to give you, as another woman who is always trying to get things done, a little gift in this week’s post. It’s actually a very precious gift.

It’s called “enoughness”

I’m giving you explicit permission to tell yourself that, whatever you did, or did not achieve this week, it was absolutely enough. And that most importantly, YOU are enough.

Let me repeat that:

You have DONE enough.
You ARE enough.

Here is one of the most comforting, reassuring and empowering quotes I have ever read for busy women like you, who achieve so much each day. It’s from Brene Brown. I’ve printed this out and stuck it on my office wall. I read it at the end of every day. I am sharing it to remind you of the gift of “enoughness”:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging with our lives from a place of worthiness. it’s about cultivating the courage, compassion and connection to wake up in the morning and think no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough”

Enjoy your gift of enoughness at the end of today. Give yourself a pat on the back and ​tell yourself: “I have done enough today. And I AM enough”

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please use the social media share buttons to pass on the gift of enoughness to all those other busy women!

Reach out… and then get on with it!

By amandaalexander | Friendship

I was like a pressure cooker maxing out… I’d kept on going. I’d slogged my guts out and felt as if I wasn’t getting anywhere. I had worked long and hard, not had enough sleep and it felt that life was always accelerating, forcing me to do more and more, faster and faster.

I suspect you probably know exactly what I mean.

I think the pressure had been building for many months! This year, I feel as if I have worked my little socks off to take my precious business to the next level – and I’m not quite there yet!

If we were rewarded in proportion to the hours, heart and soul we put into our work, most of us would surely be sitting on a million bucks right now!

I bet you’ve had your fair share of challenges as well. What are YOU dealing with? What is stressful about your life right now? What is taking your attention or demanding your energy, I wonder?

Let’s face it – we are ALL dealing with stuff. Every single one of us. I know this because one of the things I do on a daily basis is listen to people.

You only have to scratch the surface to discover that pretty much everyone you know is dealing with some kind of challenge. Here are just a few of the things that my own circle is dealing with, in no particular order…

Marriage difficulties
Chronic insomnia
Debilitating periods
Feeling like a failure
Chronic stress
Parkinson’s disease

The list goes on… !

Right now, as I sit here writing to you, I can’t take away your challenges. I can’t offer you a magic pill to melt away the health problem you might be grappling with, nor can I dampen the grief you might be living with. I can’t magic away your money worries or make your toxic boss disappear in a puff of smoke. I can’t fix your relationship, un-mood your moody teen or do a supernanny on your endlessly tantrumming toddler.

But I CAN do this: I can assure you that we’re all in this together. You’re not alone. And guess what? That means that you don’t have to deal with it all by yourself. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should dump all your problems on everyone you meet, but you ARE allowed to reach out and say;

“Help. I’m fed up. Please can I talk?”

This is what I did when the pressure came to a head last week. I told a couple of friends I trusted – and my mum (of course):

“I’m done with this and I’m bl**dy fed up!”

One listened and acknowledged me – “Yes, this is tough!” she said! And then sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers
One listened and told me she loved me and it would all be alright
One listened and told me I was brilliant
One listened and connected me with a great business contact

And so, aided with a boost from my friends and family, I got on with it. I got on with putting my own sh1t aside and helping my wonderful clients. I got on with marketing my programme for coaches and I got on with building my business.

And I got on with being mum, making soup and sandwiches and washing clothes and buying presents for birthday parties and taxi-ing and reading bedtime stories!

Just as YOU get on with it. Because you simply have to, don’t you? And you will get through it, because you’re even stronger than you think and even smarter than you give yourself credit for.

However, YOU TOO are allowed to let down your guard and reach out. Because we all need to be heard and perhaps even have a good cry. Think of it the way a tropical thunderstorm clears the air and lifts the oppression of a hot and humid day. Talking it out – and being listened to – will help you to reset.

Talking won’t magically resolve everything and it won’t mean that things will immediately get better. But it will release the pressure and top up your reserves, so that you can face the next day with renewed vigour and possibly even a little bit more perspective.

We’re all grown ups and we have to get on with life with all its ups and downs. But we don’t have to do it alone. So my message to you this week is simple..

Reach out, talk it out … and then get on with it!

If you enjoyed this post please consider sharing, you may also enjoy Once in a While, You Just Want to be Heard

15 secrets of success from a top female leader

By amandaalexander | Gender Equality

In episode 004 of the Inspiring Women Interviews podcast, Emma McGuigan, Senior Managing Director Technology, Accenture UK and Ireland shared some of her “secrets of success” for to help you to build a successful career whilst balancing it with life and family.

I’ve summarised my 15 favourites from my interview with Emma in this post. Enjoy – and let me know which one is the most useful to YOU right now in the comments section below the post.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go right. Draw a line in the sand and move on.
  2. Decide what’s important to YOU and focus on those things. Let go of what’s NOT important to you.
  3. What is YOUR “set in stone” for managing your work-life balance? For Emma, it’s having one meal a day with her family. Choose yours and do it!
  4. Your life will continuously evolve. Treat your life an old fashioned radio that continually needs fine-tuning. Be gentle with yourself – guilt is useless.
  5. How do you reflect on how you are spending your time each day? What works for you? For Emma it is running. Find the thing that helps you to reflect on each day so that you are spending your time on the things that are important.
  6. Never feel guilty and never live with regrets. Instead, decide what you will do differently next time.
  7. Positive energy comes from always looking for the learning, not dwelling on the things that didn’t work out and keeping yourself moving forward.
  8. Don’t place limitations on yourself: STOP saying ‘I can’t do this because…’ and look for a reason you can!
  9. Measure your success by the outcomes you want, rather than the number of hours you sit behind a desk or spend replying to emails.
  10. At the start of your day, ask yourself what you’re going to focus on that day and whether that’s the best use of your time in relation to your current priorities.
  11. Keep asking for feedback. If for example, if you have just chaired a meeting but you’re not sure how you performed, ask others what they thought and what they would’ve done differently. Just ask!
  12. You can’t go through life beating yourself up about things you didn’t do, just celebrate the things you did.
  13. Avoid being a victim. When something happens that feels “unfair”, turn that feeling of injustice into something that empowers you. What do you want to happen? Use the “bad” situation to create your own “good” situation.
  14. Remember that NOBODY cares more about your career than you. If you expect someone else to tell you what you should do next, you could be waiting a very long time! OWN your career management.
  15. You only get one chance at your life, so make sure you grab every opportunity that comes along – and grab them fast! Get into the habit of going for it rather than deliberating. Give it a go and if it doesn’t work out, try something else!

You’ll get more of Emma’s tips and you’ll benefit from the full impact of the summary above by listening to the interview on the .  If you enjoy the show, I would be so grateful if you could leave feedback over on or Stitcher and share it with your own connections.  By doing this, you will help to get the podcast to more women and inspire them to be the best they can!

The Emotional Benefits of Decluttering

By amandaalexander | Work & Life Balance

In my own experience of being an odd combination of half hoarder half ruthless declutterer, I find that the biggest obstacles to decluttering for me are:

* Not knowing what to do with it
* Not having time to deal with it
* Addressing the difficult emotions surrounding it

I’m on a never-ending journey of discovery with decluttering my life as I have experienced the benefits over and over again.

After decluttering…

  • New opportunities and ideas emerge
  • I have more energy – I feel lighter
  • Money comes into my life unexpectedly! Seriously!
  • I experience a deep feeling of satisfaction
  • I feel calmer
  • I feel more “in the present” when I’m in surroundings that are clear of clutter
  • I feel jolly pleased with  myself!

When I have decluttered a kitchen cupboard for example, I keep going back to it, opening it and looking at it, just for the sheer sense of satisfaction! I bet I’m not the only one!

I recently addressed my lingerie drawers with utter ruthlessness – I reduced my “smalls drawers” by 50% I even applied the advice of Marie Kondo, author of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying” and rolled all my socks and knickers! Yes.. rolled! They are now all snugly tucked into old shoe boxes!

When I first read about this rolling technique, I thought it was a bit extreme, but I can tell you that my smalls drawer has stayed in this rolled up rather than piled up state ever since – and I love it, because I no longer get that horrible little stressful frisson when I can’t find the right thing!

Where does your life need decluttering

Look around you now.. what needs decluttering? Which clutter areas come to mind? It might be clutter in your house or your office; it might be clutter on the hard drive of your computer? It might even be a cluttered mind.

Clutter comes in all shapes and forms – physical, virtual, mental.

What has stopped you from decluttering?

Heather Bestel, founder of , delivered a brilliant Masterclass recently for my Academy for Talented Women members. The class was called: “The Emotional Benefits of Decluttering”

You might think that you haven’t dealt with your clutter because of lack of time, but Heather explained to us that our emotional attachment presents the bigger obstacle for most people.

The Emotional Challenges of Decluttering

Heather shared some examples of the emotional challenges associated with clutter..

  • Getting rid of clothes that no longer fit means we have to accept the shape we are now.
  • Getting rid of a deceased loved one’s possessions means we have to come to terms with our loss and grief.
  • Getting rid of sentimental treasures after a divorce means coming to terms with the end of the relationship and the potential fear of the process of moving on.
  • Getting rid of a wedding present you don’t like means dealing with a sense of guilt.
  • Getting rid of an expensive item you never use means accepting
    that you made a poor decision when you bought it.

Heather recommends being gentle and kind to yourself and starting with baby steps. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up for you, being aware that underneath the emotion, you have a desire to be free.

Dealing with clutter can raise many emotions from our past: You may feel you are betraying someone you once loved by getting rid of something. You may feel irresponsible if you were frequently told not to waste as a child. You may not feel as if you deserve a beautiful space if you have suffered abuse in your past.

Heather reminded us that healing painful emotions comes from recognising and accepting those feelings, whatever they are.

3 Key Words to Remember for Dealing with Emotions when Decluttering

There are 3 key words that will help you to work through the emotions of decluttering:

  1. Trust
    Trust yourself that you can make good choices for your future
  2. Permission
    Give yourself permission to get rid of the things you have always disliked or which annoy, irritate or upset you when you see them.
  3. Space
    Give yourself space to feel free and create your own energising and nurturing space.

5 Top Tips for Decluttering this Spring

Here are 5 tips to help you get clutter free this spring:

  1. Choose 5 areas in your life that you will address within the next month. Make each area small – chunk down rather than chunk up, so think “top kitchen drawer” rather than “kitchen”!
  2. Do you have a “messy drawer”? You know the one, where everything goes that you don’t know what to do with? Get it all out. Make a decision on every single thing. Keep or don’t keep.
  3. Set a percentage reduction target. This has worked so well for me for my clothes and the boys’ clothes. When we set ourselves a specific target, it ignites our sense of competition with ourselves. Try to beat it!  I set a target of reducing by 30% and have far exceeded that.
  4. Heather says we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. To identify which clothes are just taking up space, here’s a neat trick: Turn the hangers around in your wardrobe so the open end is facing you. Each time you wear something, turn the hanger back round so the curve is facing you. After a year, throw out the clothes whose hangers have not been turned around!
  5. Start thinking in processes for the things in your home. This is really useful for me. I ask myself questions like this: “Where does this belong?” “How do I deal with this thing? Once I’ve used it, where does it go?” and “What is my process for dealing with this?” Heather recommends having a one touch policy for paperwork. I haven’t achieved that yet, but I’m working on it!

If you’d like to access to the full Masterclass on The Emotional Benefits of Decluttering with Heather Bestel right now,  click here. You’ll be taken to the Academy page, where you find out more about The Academy. Once you join, you’ll have instant access to Heather’s masterclass as well as dozens of others. Latest content in The Academy includes “Identifying the roles you play”, “Negotiating skills for women” and “Identifying your values for your career”.

Heather is running the Spring Clean Challenge this month in her online membership club for women, . I’ve been a member of the Happiness Garden since its inception and I highly recommend it! to find out more.