03/29/2013 05:02 pm ET Updated May 29, 2013

Need It 'All'? 3 Ways Women Can Redefine Expectations

by Megan Totka for

For many women, the ultimate goal is finding balance between all of life's important pieces and having it all. But what does "having it all" actually mean? Does it entail financial stability, a happy family, a powerful career and a nice home? Or is it that magical sense of "balance" we hear so much about? Most likely your goal is a combination of all of these things.

The problem with the notion of having it all is that it ignores the obvious need for give and take. If everyone was able to have it all without any kind of sacrifice, there'd be no reason to write this post. The reality is that any goal worth achieving, such as being an entrepreneur, takes not only hard work and determination, but also smart choices. The equation is simple: something must be given up in order for something else to be gained.

So, how can women make the most of their career potential and enjoy their lives to the fullest? Perhaps it's time to redefine the expectations that women have for themselves and each other.

Accept Workplace Flexibility (Without Feeling Inferior)

Juggling the demands of career and family is undoubtedly challenging, which is why flexible work schedules can be a lifesaver. Although flexible schedules provide an ideal solution, they're not always easy to come by. There are many pros and cons to working from home that businesses consider and while the technology exists for employees to perform almost any job without being tied to an office, not every employer considers flexible working arrangements to be a solution. Unfortunately too, many women feel less valuable asking for or accepting non-traditional schedules, especially if other people in their departments work on traditional terms.

Sallie Krawcheck recently wrote about the need for women to view the workplace with the concept of flexibility without shame. She claims that rigidity in workplace scheduling represents the new "glass ceiling" because it keeps women, particularly mothers, from reaching their career potential. For employers to fully realize the potential of the female workforce, women have to request -- and confidently accept -- a flexible workload.

Take Time Away

It sounds simple, but women are notorious for not getting enough "me" time. For those who are self-employed or work as freelancers, it's even tougher to carve out time away when dealing with an "always on the clock" mentality. As time off is necessary for your well-being, plan for it in advance and give "me" time the same weight as other items on your agenda. According to Expedia, only 38 percent of American workers use their earned vacation time -- an average of 14 to 18 days per year. Most small business owners take fewer than the average days. As cliché as it may sound, putting yourself first will allow you to be more productive in the long run.

In addition to the occasional vacation, you also need time each day to refocus. Even if you simply take 20 minutes per day for meditation, exercise or light reading, make time for a break -- your physical and mental health will likely improve as a result.

Encourage Other Women

If you're like me, you find the pop culture depictions that pit women against each other to be offensive. And although the arguments are often petty, they're closer to reality than we'd like to admit. That being said, women shouldn't blindly agree with each other or smile instead of debate. They do, however, need to possess the ability to express their beliefs in a way that's respectful towards others. Remember this when discussing high-profile women like mom and Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, or when talking to women in your everyday life. Think about the motivation behind your words before sending something out in public. Ask yourself if you're trying to make a valid point or simply cutting another woman down. Never rush into judgment, especially in a public way, but instead frame your arguments in a way that respects others.

We need to work as a group to change public opinion by first changing our own. Managing our expectations of achieving balance just may be the key to finding it.

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Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.