Making It Work

10 ways to make time for the things that matter

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Tracy Richelle High

I don’t mean to trivialize the important question of how you achieve work-life balance. But the answer is quite simple: You make time for the things that matter. Period. What matters most on any particular day changes, and you must be flexible. Some days I devote more time to being a lawyer, and other days I devote more to my personal life. Finding time to devote to my career and personal life is as challenging for me as it is for anybody. But along the way, I have learned to make it work by just making it work.

1. Establish your boundaries and stick to them. This is something only you can do, and you should do it before you get into a bind. Can I miss a dinner at home with my family one night? Yes. Can I miss 30 nights in a row? No. If you know what your boundaries are in advance, you can plan ahead and keep those who need to know in the loop. Don’t let your fear of addressing issues head-on leave people surprised about when you will and won’t be available.

2. Expect others to be understanding. We all have to address work-life balance. Remember, it’s not just you. My expectation of others is that they will be understanding because they, too, face their own challenges. My son is going to be starting preschool soon, and I will be there with him on his first day. I know people will understand that. We all have events in our lives that are important to us and can’t be missed.

3. Take the “look yourself in the mirror” challenge. Can you look yourself in the mirror and be proud of what you have done? My goal is always to do the absolute best work I can. My yardstick is to be able to look myself in the mirror and say that I have done the best work I can do under the given circumstances and deadlines.

4. Run your own race. Don’t compare yourself to others or measure your achievements by what they achieve. You’re not in competition with others. Your job is to be the best you that you can be and to bring that person to work every day.

5. Make time for yourself. We often overload ourselves because we want to be all things to all people. You can’t do anyone any good if you are burned out—and least of all yourself. Don’t take on everything. Figure out what matters. No matter how busy things get, always carve out some time for yourself. For me, that time is in the early morning.

6. Check your mindset. Each day I wake up, my first appointment entry of the day is a reminder, which reads “Choose joy.” It reminds me that I choose my own attitude, and that I can’t let others or my circumstances define for me who I am or how I feel about myself. Your happiness cannot depend on your circumstances.

7. Be present where you are. Multitasking is great, but it can lead to inefficiencies. If you are always multitasking, you are never fully focused. Figure out those things that you have to have a singular focus on and focus on them.

8. Be confident. When you’re confident in yourself and your abilities, other people will be, too. That’s not to say you should be cocky and arrogant. But you should hold your head up high and carry yourself with poise.

9. Be kind to yourself. We are often our biggest critics. We can always improve and should make efforts to do so. But if you can look yourself in the mirror and say you’ve done the best you can do (see No. 3), then don’t beat yourself up. It’s not productive.

10. Learn from others. The mark of a strong person isn’t shouldering everything on your own. If you need help, ask for it. Don’t be shy. Be clear about what it is you need help with, and be open to guidance and support.

Tracy Richelle High is the deputy managing partner of Sullivan & Cromwell’s litigation group and co-chair of the firm’s diversity and women’s initiative committees. She is based in New York City at the firm’s headquarters.

Making It Work is a column in partnership with the Working Mother Best Law Firms for Women initiative in which lawyers share how they manage both life’s challenges and work’s demands. Visit for more.

This article appeared in the October 2017 issue of the ABA Journal with the headline “You Make It Work By Simply Making It Work.”

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