For CEOs For CXOs

Avoid Burnout and Bring Joy to Your Work

Recently, Bolster hosted Charlene Wang—3x entrepreneur, executive coach, author of Model Breakers, and founder of nonprofit LivingOS.org—to share her expertise around avoiding burnout and building a joyful, balanced life. The session was primarily geared towards high performing executives who balance a busy work-life schedule.

Charlene shared her personal story, including her background as an entrepreneur and her experience with health issues caused by intense burnout. After struggling with the consequences of her burnout and coping through exploration, journaling, support from those around her, and many conversations, she realized that many executives deal with similar challenges. It doesn’t have to be this way. Charlene built a system to help other executives (and herself) avoid repeating a cycle of burnout.

Attendees got to hear some of Charlene’s key points during the session. In case you missed it, I’m sharing some of my key takeaways with you, too.

The 5-ball exercise: re-prioritize your life

Imagine life as a game with 5 balls. You juggle them in the air, trying not to drop any. The five balls are: Work, Family, Health, Friends, and Soul. Now imagine all the balls are glass—except one, which is rubber. Of course, the rubber ball doesn’t break if you drop it.

Which one is rubber?

(Answer: Work. If you drop this, it won’t break. If you drop the other balls, there’s a chance that they will crack, break or even shatter.)

This is a great analogy to help you know what to prioritize.

I used a similar analogy when I first became a single parent while also balancing a large role. I chose five items that were important to me: Kids, Family, Friends, Health/Exercise, and Work. I deprioritized anything that didn’t fit into one of those categories, I ‘bundled’ where possible (only exercising with friends rather than alone), and was very intentional about the time I spent in each category.

Define success for yourself

We each have ideas about what success looks like based on cultural norms, our upbringing, and our own drive and ambition. Take time periodically to assess your metrics of success, and determine whether they still fit your values and your life. Consider what success means outside of work, too. What brings joy or peace to the rest of your life? That can contribute to your overall success, if your goal is balance or health.

I’d recommend doing this on at least an annual basis, as it can be a strong guidepost for the work you want to accomplish.

Evaluate your priorities vs. your calendar

On a regular basis (daily or weekly), ask yourself what your most important priorities are, then check your calendar to ensure you’re spending the right amount of time on them. Use tools—like color coding your calendar—so you can quickly evaluate this.

It’s also important to note: not everything can be a priority. Part of living a balanced life is choosing the few things that are really important and leaving room for the things that bring you joy.

I know I can get caught up in the daily emails, slack messages, and texts from colleagues. As a result, I don’t have time for the things I’ve prioritized, and I end up working late to get to the important things. The days where I’m more disciplined about my interruptions are the days I get more done!

Understand your Work and Life Personas

Charlene shared this tool to help you evaluate your work priorities and take the next steps to frame your Work and Life Personas. Following the columns from left to right, you can identify your persona for work and life and use them to center your focus on things that bring you joy.

I think each person may get something slightly different out of this tool; for me, it reminded me that I can be fun and playful at work, and still be competitive and driving towards accomplishment. Play with the tool and share your learnings with us!

Check out the community at LivingOS to help you bring intention and joy into your life.

-Cathy Hawley, September 21, 2022.