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Balancing Ambition: New Year's Resolutions for Work-Life Harmony

More than 90% of all New Year's resolutions go unfulfilled, but finding harmony between your career and personal life is one resolution you should keep.
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For decades, professionals from all backgrounds have worked to improve work-life balance—and for good reason. From greater career success and personal happiness to better mental and physical health, building a strong relationship between your work and home lives has countless benefits.

As the professional world continues to evolve, however, many workers have begun to question whether "balance" is really the end goal. Instead, many now prioritize "harmony" between the two sides of their lives, making for a much more nuanced approach to work-life integration.

Below, we'll explore exactly what's meant by work-life harmony, whether it's right for you, and how to make it a reality.

Understanding Work-Life Harmony

A good work-life balance has been a staple for generations of professionals, so why the sudden change to work-life harmony? Far more than a semantic difference, the two terms come with important implications for how we view work's role in our lives.

Work-life harmony vs. Work-life balance

While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are crucial differences between work-life harmony and a healthy work-life balance.

Balance, in this circumstance, typically refers to equality, meaning that a person dedicates an equal amount of attention to their professional and personal lives. This is a more rigid approach to setting boundaries, though that's not to say it doesn't work for some people.

Work-life harmony, on the other hand, is a much more personalized, dynamic method of managing the relationship between your career and personal life. For example, harmony for one person may mean dedicating 80% of their time and energy to work, whereas harmony for another may mean dedicating only 30%—and both people in these examples are perfectly happy with the arrangement.

The key is realizing that only you can determine what distribution of your time and energy makes you happiest.

Why work-life harmony matters for career and personal growth

In previous generations, many employers and workers considered professional and personal life to be two distinct concepts, with a strict boundary drawn between. As the professional world has evolved, however, many people now view the two as extensions of one another, with shared values, passions, and even goals.

By creating harmony between your work and personal life, you increase the chances that both will grow and flourish. This harmony might manifest in any of several ways, such as leveraging the skills gained from a personal hobby to expand your role and contributions at work. Conversely, connections made while at work may help you pursue side projects or personal goals outside of work.

Setting Realistic Career Goals

Just like you wouldn't want a boss or coworker to set unrealistic goals for you to accomplish, you shouldn't set unrealistic goals for yourself if you're hoping to achieve lasting work-life harmony. Still, setting goals that are both realistic and ambitious is easier said than done, so having a clear plan is a must.

Setting goals with the SMART system

There are many methods for setting effective goals, but one of the most tried-and-true is known as the SMART system. This stands for:

Specific

Instead of making your goals vague or general, try to zoom in on the specific accomplishments that would improve your life most. A helpful way to think of this is to set goals that you could effectively communicate during a performance review or on your resume.

As an added bonus, career goals with clearly defined parameters are less likely to bleed over into your home life.

Measurable

Subjectivity has a time and place, but it's rarely useful when setting goals that benefit work-life harmony. Instead, stick to objective, measurable goals, where progress can be easily tracked. For this, statistics and numbers are your friends—regardless of the nature of your work.

By setting measurable goals, you reduce work-related stress, prevent the dreaded "moving goalposts," and are more likely to stay motivated in the face of difficulties.

Achievable

Even more than a healthy personal and professional life, setting achievable goals is vital for maintaining your mental health. Stretch goals are useful (and can play an important role in your overall career growth), but they should always be viewed as a happy "if," not a definitive "when."

Instead, focus your goal-setting on things that you know you can achieve but that are still challenging. That way, you force yourself to stretch and grow without letting unreasonable expectations lead to poor work-life harmony.

Relevant

It may be tempting to chase goals that look good on paper or feel good in the moment, and it's okay to do so—to an extent. The bulk of your goal setting, however, should revolve around the achievements or areas of growth most important for your professional life, personal life, and overall well-being.

An "easy" way to do this is to be honest about your weaknesses. Realize that shame does nothing except slow or prevent growth and that only by acknowledging your weaknesses and setting SMART goals to address them will you reach your full potential.

Time-Bound

Prioritizing time-bound goals refers to two things: clear deadlines and a firm separation between work hours and personal time.

With the former, setting and sticking to personal deadlines helps you hold yourself accountable for the goals you set. For the latter, respecting your personal time the way you'd respect a coworker's can prevent work-life harmony from disintegrating into chronic stress and poor work-life balance.

Aligning career goals with personal values

As modern professionals continue to prioritize their own agency in the workplace, personal values play an increasingly important role in mapping career growth. As you move through your career, don't shy away from putting your personal values front and center in your career. Often, doing so can mean greater fulfillment and overall success.

Remember, your values are a strength—not something to be sacrificed for any employer.

Effective Time Management Techniques

Time creep is the mortal enemy of work-life harmony, which is why it's so important to dedicate effort and resources to building effective time management techniques. So, whether you're already a time management guru or are in need of a little help, here are our favorite tips:

Prioritize tasks and responsibilities

One of the simplest ways to better manage your time is to build out a hierarchy of tasks and responsibilities, both at work and at home. Depending on your priorities, these hierarchies can either be linked or separate but should be constructed with your overall needs as a complete human being in mind.

After you've assembled a list of all of the tasks and responsibilities on your plate, simply begin ranking them according to how necessary or impactful they are. In instances where two or more tasks are seemingly tied, assign them all the same number and then circle back once you've completed the rest of your hierarchy. Usually, such ties can be broken with a little more consideration. If they can't, leave them tied!

Instead, decide which of these tasks you're better suited to tackle at the moment. As our moods and energy levels shift, we're more or less productive at performing different types of tasks, so use this to your advantage when approaching similarly-important responsibilities throughout the day.

Create a balanced daily routine

Establishing a healthy, balanced daily routine is one of the best things you can do to promote work-life harmony. And contrary to what you may think, this kind of routine does not mean the end of spontaneity or freedom.

Instead, organizing your most important daily tasks into a streamlined routine frees up more time for flexibility and exploration of other interests and pursuits. The more quickly and efficiently you can handle the things you need to do each day, the more time you have to dedicate to things you want to do.

Strategies for Maintaining Work-Life Harmony

Once you establish the ever-elusive work-life harmony, you'll likely never want to go back to what you had before. Thankfully, maintaining your hard-earned harmony comes down to two simple habits.

Set firm boundaries

Learning to set boundaries that carry weight is essential for any 21st-century professional, but many people struggle nonetheless. For some, this is because they've been conditioned to say "yes," regardless of how a request fits into their schedule or life. Others mistakenly equate effort with self-worth and, therefore, feel the need to give 110%—even when they're burning out.

If you struggle to set healthy boundaries, try to think of it as if the boundaries you set belonged to a coworker, friend, or family member. Would you respect them? Would you find them reasonable? Would you think less of that person for having those boundaries? Externalizing the boundary-setting process like this is a great way to overcome the misguided feelings of "selfishness" that burden so many professionals.

Additionally, remember to set firm boundaries with yourself—not just with other people. Often, the pressures we feel to over-perform or self-sacrifice come from within, so taking the time to reflect and recognize those behaviors is important for maintaining work-life harmony in the long run.

Stay flexible and adaptable

As you evolve and progress through your career, chances are that your values and priorities will change—and that's perfectly okay. When those changes occur, meet them openly and honestly rather than resisting due to what you think you "should" want.

Whether you come to a point in your life where you want to focus more on career progression, want to take some time off to prioritize your family, or any other kind of shift in values, your satisfaction and happiness are the most important things.

Finally, try to frame adaptation as something you want to do—not something you're being forced into. By meeting challenges and changes with enthusiasm, you both improve outcomes and build a better relationship with your own professional development.

Utilizing Support Systems and Resources

All around the world, millions of professionals find themselves in similar situations: trying to build a healthier dynamic between their work and personal life. To help, countless tools, resources, and communities have sprung up in recent years. Here's how to make the most of them.

Leverage professional and personal support networks

Thanks to online networking and digital communities, professionals are more connected than ever. If you're struggling to find or maintain work-life harmony, consider reaching out to these communities to ask for help. More often than not, you'll find others in situations almost identical to yours willing to lend a sympathetic ear or offer helpful, first-hand experience.

But the value of these communities doesn't end there. Often, peers or fellow professionals in your field are the best source for finding reliable, high-value tools to promote time management, productivity, or boundary-setting.

Using work-life harmony for growth

As you build toward work-life harmony, you'll inevitably develop a more refined, nuanced understanding of your own values and how they relate to your career—don't let it go to waste. Instead, use this new understanding to focus on the areas of growth most useful to your overall goals.

You might, for example, realize that you're happiest when mentoring or managing less experienced members of your professional community. In that instance, finding opportunities to volunteer as a mentor in your personal life or take on a leadership role at work may be worth pursuing.

Regardless of what realizations unfold for you, making continued work-life harmony your overarching goal can make for a much more fulfilling career path.

Reflecting and Adjusting Throughout the Year

Sometimes, change happens quickly—or so gradually that we only realize it much later and all at once. As you move through the year to come, make time to reflect on who you are, what you value, and whether your situation aligns with those truths.

Regular self-assessment and reflection

In the past few years, you may have encountered the advice to "treat mental health checkups like a regular doctor's visit." Well, the same is true for self-reflection. Rather than waiting until you experience a challenge or hardship to check in with yourself, consider making it a semi-scheduled event.

The specifics of this schedule are entirely yours to decide, but by making a deliberate effort to prioritize self-awareness, you can often prevent problems or disharmony from arising altogether.

Embracing a mindset of continuous improvement

Continuous improvement, growth mindset—whatever you call it, the concept of ongoing development is a common one in the 21st-century workforce. And while the philosophy has huge potential for personal and professional success, it's important to stay aware of the potential pitfalls of a "never enough" mentality.

Specifically, make sure that your idea of improvement holds true to the SMART goals you develop. Too often, we see professionals fall prey to the steady creeping of goalposts, with once-reasonable goals slowly evolving into impossible expectations.

When you do maintain reasonable goals and work-life harmony, however, continuous growth becomes a healthy, positive force. Remember, you have the final say in how you develop and progress, so it's up to you to determine what matters most in your professional and personal trajectories.

How to Get Started

Regardless of whether you ultimately decide to pursue work-life balance or work-life harmony, prioritizing your career satisfaction is an admirable goal—and one we'd like to help with.

To that end, we've built our powerful, AI-backed career test with your success in mind. Over the course of about 20 minutes, we'll analyze your responses to our questions and compile a personalized, data-driven report that gives you everything you need to find a satisfying career.

And for those wanting even more support? Our expert career coaches are on hand to walk you through your results, dive deep into the specifics of your situation, and give you insider advice on how to build lasting work-life harmony. You've waited long enough for a career that you love—it's time to try something new.

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