Forget Balance. You Need a Work-Life Breakthrough

running a business

When you ask people to use their hands to show what “balance” looks like, hands ultimately raise in some replica of a scale, similar to the scales of justice.

Bogus. Yes, the very word “balance” creates the picture of a scale in which everything is equal. But life is never equal. Sure, it would be nice if our home and work demanded equal attention, delivered equal rewards, and prompted an equal feeling of well-being and calm. But the notion of balance conjures up an image that sets false expectations and isn’t sustainable.

Even before COVID-19 and the resulting global economic upheaval, our lives have always been a continuous stew of physical challenges, work pressures, family issues, and financial demands. The issue is when one or more of these areas dominates to such a degree that we find ourselves overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable, angry, cynical, helpless, and withdrawing. Symptoms like these could very well mean burnout.​

work life balance

Breaking free from burnout requires serious tactics

Getting more sleep might take the edge off temporarily, but it’s not enough. Burnout requires serious tactics in order to breakthrough to crafting a more reasonable life that can handle ups and downs, high tides and low ones. What you seek is how to break out of patterns of thinking, behaving, and acting that drain your physical, emotional, and mental resources. 

In short, what creates a breakthrough is learning to handle our energy. What really matters is becoming conscious and deliberate about what this period of life needs, and how to realign our energy flow to recharge and refuel NOW. We move into burnout when we don’t make that shift, when our energy is exhausted at the expense of other parts of our life.

So, how can you shift and leave burnout behind? Start with these five steps::

1.     Assess where you are on a five-point scale. ​Rate each of the topics below, giving yourself a 5 for outstanding and 1 for fair.

Your physical body:

  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Overall health

Your emotional well-being:

  • Taking time to connect with loved ones
  • Reaching out to friends and co-workers
  • Limiting contact with negative people
  • Practicing self-care, such as meditation or mindfulness

Your workload:

  • Your work’s requirements are reasonable
  • You have resources to help you (technology, skills, other people)
  • You receive helpful feedback from others
  • You control the time you spend on digital devices

Your spiritual well-being:

  • You take time to help others
  • You have work that’s meaningful
  • You participate in some form of spiritual practice
  • You practice gratitude
2.     Examine your ratings. Where do you fall short? Which areas significantly deplete your energy? Where do you score high? What recharges your energy?
3.     Look for high returns. In which area would you get the greatest return for the least amount of effort? What will you do, and when will you start?
4.     Address your workload. If your workload is the issue, what’s holding you back from speaking with your manager? What assistance do you need?
5.     Celebrate small wins. Consider what actions can lead to breakthroughs and take small steps to feel a level of success.

Remember, exhaustion is not a badge of courage or worthy of a medal of honor. Focus on reclaiming what matters today. Now is the only time you can handle. Tomorrow will come soon enough.

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This guest post was authored by Eileen McDargh

Eileen McDargh is CEO (chief energy officer) at the Resiliency Group, where she draws on practical business know-how, life experience, and years of international consulting to help others survive and thrive in an upside-down world. Her new book is Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What MattersLearn more at

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.

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