BP Perspective Insights from a Business Partner

Resolve to Balance the Scales in 2020

We talk about work-life balance as though it is something that we can achieve, and when we don’t find that magical balance between “work” and “life,” we must be doing something wrong. 

Brianna Leung

I find the more I have conversations with professional women (and men) that the term “work-life balance” may be a misnomer. Most of the high-performing, hard-working career women I meet with view their work as being central to their lives and self-defining — not the opposite side to a scale where life is on the other side.

Many of my peers, clients, mentors and friends struggle with balancing their time, focus and energy across multiple interests and devotions. I hear common themes and examples about the stress and pressure of having it all — excelling at one’s career, while also excelling in the role of mom, spouse, daughter, sister and friend. The reality is that we will never have enough hours in the day or human capacity to give everyone in our world what we would like to give them.

I consider the people in my life to be stakeholders in my time, focus and energy. Each deserves and demands a piece of me, and as a people-pleaser and high-achiever, I want to give them my all. I can’t help but feel that for one stakeholder to win another must lose. And that self-induced pressure adds up to a lot of guilt and added stress, often resulting in depression and anxiety for women. The final stakeholder — the one who is almost always last in line when the time, energy and focus are getting dished out — is ourselves. When was the last time you learned something new, spent meaningful time in a hobby, took stock of your own well-being and did something to improve it? For me, it was in April 2019.

Deciding I had to get things under control, I took hold of the reins, beginning with taking care of myself. I started with small adjustments — resolving to check my smartwatch in the morning to really see how many hours of sleep I got the night before and taking advantage of online grocery services to take the time-consuming task of weekly food shopping off my plate. From there, my journey went to joining a weight loss and health program to get myself back in shape physically. And now, as I write this column in October 2019, I can say that the differences are significant. My stress and guilt are lower, my self-esteem and confidence higher, and my energy and focus more heightened than ever before. And I’m not done.

I consider the people in my life to be stakeholders in my time, focus and energy. Each deserves and demands a piece of me, and as a people-pleaser and high-achiever, I want to give them my all.

This past August, I had the great privilege of sitting on a panel of women leaders for the Women Who Lead session at the annual ILTACON (International Legal Technology Association Conference). We were asked to speak from a leadership perspective on how to “Turn It Off in an Always On Environment.”

As I prepared for the discussion, I found that I had very few answers and far more questions. How do you turn it off? So I set out to get some answers through the stories and examples submitted by dozens of women on LinkedIn and through personal conversations. My conclusion? Nobody has the one answer to solve this issue. But there are many examples of things women are doing to balance the scales each day.

And so, here are my New Year’s Resolutions for Balancing the Scales in 2020.


Women often are guilty of having Superhero Syndrome — the belief that we can do it all, and solve it all, better. Whether it’s driven by the desire to please people, perfection or martyrdom, we often perceive and treat situations as crises when they really aren’t. And so I resolve to put away my mask and cape and entrust others to handle situations that don’t really require my involvement or immediate attention.


“Help me help you.” Women are great at saying “yes,” but sometimes we really need to say “yes, and …” And so I resolve to set and manage expectations with my stakeholders. I will allow myself to not respond to that email tonight or over the weekend — without guilt! It means I will tell my first-grader that I would love to make unicorn slime, but I need 45 minutes to finish a work assignment so she can have my full focus. It means telling my colleague that I would be happy to help him with that project and that my next opportunity to give it the full attention it warrants is Tuesday afternoon. And I will know in my heart that this is the right answer.


Sometimes the answer is “not right now.” Sure, I would love to join that board or be a troop leader, but not right now. When we say “yes” to one thing, we have to recognize that it means we are saying “no” to something or someone we have already committed to. So I resolve to have the courage to call it and say, “not right now,” not in this horizon but perhaps in the next. I will examine and prioritize opportunities and responsibilities based on horizons, rather than days or weeks. I will resolve to balance the scales in each horizon.

I have a newfound strength and optimism thanks to the many experiences and wisdom of other women leaders who are finding the small wins day by day. The scales between stakeholders may never be fully balanced, but by setting boundaries, taking care of ourselves in order to take care of others, and thinking in terms of horizons of opportunities, there will be many more moments of parity and more wins more often. Some days the scales tip one way and some days the other, and that is OK!

Want to hear more from Brianna regarding balancing the scales in 2020? Check out ALA’s Legal Management Talk podcast.