All new parents prioritize things in their lives. Mostly the baby comes before everything else, and their spouse, work, friends and extended family are all mashed together, competing for attention. Last on the parental totem pole, of course, is sleep. While every parent feels pulled in all directions by a game of universal tug-of-war, few parents are at the helm of Fortune 500 companies. And among Fortune 500 CEOs, no one has a tougher job, arguably, than Marissa Mayer, now 14 months into her turnaround mission at Yahoo. How does she do it all?
For starters, Mayer’s position allows her more leeway than most parents have once they return to the office. As the boss lady, no one could stand in her way when she decided to install a nursery for her son, Macallister, right next to her office. And given the wealth and status she shares with investor husband Zachary Bogue, it’s probably not hard for the couple to arrange for a sitter.
But the real secret to managing all her divergent worlds, Mayer says, is to prioritize. Despite the interest the media and valley observers have in her, Mayer staunchly avoids the spotlight. She may travel to the East Coast for a rare media tour to unveil Yahoo’s new homepage, but then she won’t be seen for weeks. And she hosted a birthday party for herself back in May, but the boardwalk-themed bash was highly exclusive and more toned-down than the legendary soirées she has thrown in the past.
A native of Wisconsin, she has adopted a mantra of Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi, who famously demanded that his players have three priorities: God, their families, and his Green Bay Packers. “For me, it’s God, family and Yahoo!—in that order,” Mayer told Fortune during a rare interview last fall.
The sit-down was the first Mayer had granted since she became Yahoo’s CEO last July, and gave birth last September. Through “ruthless prioritizing,” stripping away everything in life except that which matters to her most, Mayer said, she has achieved a work-life balance.
“I knew that the job would be hard and I knew that the baby would be fun,” Mayer said. “And the thing that surprised me, and really puzzlingly so, is that the job is really fun! Yahoo! is a really fun place to work. And I love the people there. I love the spirit of the place.
“The baby’s been way easier than everyone made it out to be. I think I’ve been really lucky that way but I had a very easy, healthy pregnancy. He’s been easy. And so those have been the two really terrific surprises, that the kid has been easier and the job has been fun.”