Kirsten Gillibrand’s 168 Hours

My September 2009 issue of Glamour has a one page profile with life management advice from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who happens to be my senator here in New York. She has two children under the age of 6 (and, of course, a very full time job). Her tips? Very similar to 168 Hours!

First, she works what I call “split shifts.” That is, she stops work at 5:30PM, hangs out with her kids until 7:30, and then goes back to meetings or dinners or whatever else she needs to attend to. Yes, this may cut down on the number of cocktail parties thrown by special interest groups that she attends, but hey — our government would probably run better if fewer members of Congress attended such things.

She also talks about pursuing your passion — focusing your efforts on the things that really matter to you — and then not trying to be good at everything else. The example she uses is gutting fish (she refused to do it while on a fishing trip with son Theo) which is an easy one to throw out there (hey, she is a politician!). But I would say that this extends to more important things too. Senators outsource a lot of research and legislation writing and wrangling to their staffs, and probably outsource a lot of household management too. To truly be effective, you need a work team and a home team helping to keep things on track. This doesn’t necessarily mean a staff (which most of us don’t have at work and can’t afford at home). It means people you can rely on — which you can be willing to do for others, too.

Gillibrand notes that she has always made time for workouts. While pregnant, she worked out almost every day, forcing that hour into her schedule. She says she hasn’t found that hour in her new job yet, but plans to. In 168 Hours, we talk about finding a few “extracurricular” activities (one of which has to be exercise) that truly matter to you, figuring out exactly how long they will take, and then blocking them in, and planning ahead so they don’t fall victim to bad scheduling.

Finally, one of her most important tips? Find a partner who supports you 100%. Clearly, having a senator as a spouse is going to require some adjustments from any partner, and this is more true with Gillibrand than others, given how young her children are. But having a solid marriage is worth investing in, because it gives you amazing energy for the rest of your life. I’ll write more later this week about this question of nurturing a marriage during a busy 168 hours. But anyway, I’m happy to see Gillibrand get some attention. As some of the comments on this blog show, lots of people like to complain about how hard it is to do it all. I like seeing the stories of women — and men — who make it happen anyway.

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