Monika Phartyal, Head – IT, 3M India Ltd and 3M Sri Lanka Pvt Ltd, tells Shweta Gandhi how she juggles a successful career with responsibilities at home.
Managing a work-life balance is a tough job for most top executives. But it gets even tougher if you’re the one running the office and the home. “Even now, women have to manage the home front and deal with the pressures at work,” says Monika Phartyal, Head IT, 3M India Ltd and 3M Sri Lanka Pvt Ltd. “Women often like to think that each day gets easier but it doesn’t. Not unless you acknowledge that it is an issue and it takes work to resolve it.”
Monika should know. She is has been juggling a successful career in IT with responsibilities at home ever since she started her career 13 years ago. “I grew up watching my mum work—she was a teacher. With no maids, she would manage the house and her work,” she says. After doing her Masters in Computers and an MBA in Supply Chain, Monika started her career at Honda as a trainee. She made her way up into the IT department, and worked there for eight years. She then moved to Renault, which was just setting up base in India. She stayed with them for five years before becoming the Head–IT at 3M India Ltd and 3M Sri Lanka Pvt Ltd.
Here she lists out the strategies she uses to strike that elusive work-life balance.
#1 Set your priorities
“Every morning, I create a to-do list with at least five items that I want to achieve that day. And I ask my team to curate a daily list with three activities that they should be working towards. This forces us to be conscious of what’s important for that day and deal with the tasks at hand. At the end of the day, I look back at my list and see what items I was able to cross out from the list (this creates a sense of accomplishment) and assess the reasons for those I couldn’t. This way, I’m able to gauge my strengths and weaknesses and know which parts I need to improve on.”
#2 Focus on one thing at a time
“Most women are used to thinking on two fronts at all time—home and work. So it’s easy to get torn between the two and lose your mental equilibrium. It’s important to be focussed on the job at hand, whether you’re in the office or at home. (Making a to-do list helps in this as well.) Concentrate on what you need to do to get the task done. Try to cultivate laser-like focus.”
#3 Take time out for yourself
“We lead fast-paced and stressful lives. The stress of everyday life can creep on you in ways you can never imagine. Weekends disappear before you know it and there always seems to be something that needs to be done. It affects our health and we age faster. The best way to keep stress at bay is by taking 30-40 minutes for yourself every single day. This may be very hard to do, but it is necessary. You don’t have to do something during this time; you just have to be. You will be surprised how far this can take you.”
#4 Exercise, meditate and eat healthy
“Go for a run, do yoga, practice mediation or find a hobby that will keep you healthy. Exercising regularly doesn’t just help you stay fit, it also goes a long way towards your emotional and mental well-being. It’s a great way to beat stress and sweat out your worries. Eating healthy goes hand-in-hand with exercising. You cannot have one without the other. I ensure I avoid eating outside as far as possible and stick to homemade food.”
#5 Compromise when necessary
“If both you and your husband are working professionals, come to terms with the fact that you will probably spend a great deal of time away from each other. My husband has to often work from another city and we spend a lot of time apart but we make it work. At times the needs of one partner outweigh the other and you have to compromise.”
#6 Learn to let go
“At work I tend to be a perfectionist. But one day I noticed this wasn’t always appreciated by my team members. I realised that I was forcing my way of doing things on others. As their manager, I had to understand and empathise with their perspective and change myself. I learnt to let the little things go so that, as a team, we could focus on the larger picture.”
#7 Take a holiday
“You don’t need me to tell you the wonders a holiday can do for you. Take a break and travel as often as you can so you can unwind and return rejuvenated. It really helps in the long run.”
#8 Build a good support system
“Having people who support you and have your back helps a lot—at office and at home. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it was not for my husband, my mom-in-law and my family. But understand that building a support system just at home won’t help; you have to also build one at your workplace. You spend a great deal of your time in the office and it helps if you have someone watching your back there too.”
#9 Don’t give up on your hobbies
“Hobbies help take away stress. They provide that much needed me-time and are a source of happiness. This way you come back charged to work. I like travelling, spending time with friends, watching movies, and exploring whichever city I find myself in—Chennai, Delhi or Bangalore (I’m currently based here). I love watching leadership videos as they give me another perspective.”
#10 Set your focus: work or family?
“This is a big one. It’s important that we all answer this question. A lot of women focus on their family first—and I am one of them—and that will tell in the workplace. But that doesn’t mean that you will put in less effort at work. It just means that you know what you’re working for and that becomes a source of happiness.”