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The following is adapted from Work–Life Harmony.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term work–life balance. You may even strive to achieve it. If you’re like most people though, it feels like a struggle doesn’t it?

That’s why I believe people should aim for work–life harmony. With a life of harmony, instead of struggling to maintain balance across the warring parts of your life, each important area of focus in your life has a purpose. 

Instead of an overworked, hustle-and-grind mentality that takes over your home life, maintaining work–life harmony means that everything ebbs and flows in a rhythm—a season for work, but a time for rest, too—and most importantly, a connected family that is a part of your overall life mission.

Sounds good, right? I know from firsthand experience, it’s entirely possible. A good place to start is to connect your family and your work to your life purpose. The most powerful way to do this is by creating what I call an ideal year calendar.

List Your Annual Priorities

The very first step is to list your priorities. What things are going on your calendar that you want to make sure to do every single year, no matter what?

I have four categories to consider when creating my calendar: marriage, parenting, work, and rest/self-reflection. Within each of these categories, I have a priority for the year. For example, my marriage priority is an anniversary trip. Every year around our anniversary, my wife and I get away for at least one night (and sometimes more) to celebrate the fact that we are married for another year.

My work priority is an annual retreat. Every year, the other founders Stewardship and I get away. We try to create three big goals we want to accomplish before we get together again the following year. More than anything, though, it’s a wonderful weekend for connection. We bring our spouses so they get to connect, too.

Your priorities may look similar to mine, or they may be completely different—and that’s okay. Maybe you’re going to take that trip to your parents’ cabin every year for Christmas, or you want to make sure you go to the lake every year for the Fourth of July. That’s great! Write down whatever your priorities are: the things that are so important to you that you’re going to make sure you do them, without fail, every year.

Put Your Priorities on Your Calendar First

Get out a calendar and look at the next 12 months. Mark out the times in your work where you’re really pursuing your purpose and you know you have a busy season.

I typically have three busy seasons and I mark them off because I know it’s difficult to schedule my annual priorities during these times. I want to put everything else on pause during my annual priorities, and that’s hard to do when I’m needed at work.

If you’re not totally sure when your busy seasons will be, make your best guess. Sometimes busy seasons come when you don’t expect it. But know that you will have at least one and try to block out that time on your calendar.

Then, mark out time for your annual priorities. Make sure to include some rest before and after each busy period, too.

Keep Your Calendar Flexible

This is an ideal year calendar, so it’s flexible. You don’t have to put in specific dates. You can just mark that an event will happen sometime in a particular month, and make adjustments as necessary.

My busy seasons are typically toward the beginning of the year, in the middle of the year, and toward the end of the year, so I highlight those. Then I take another section and highlight the marriage and parenting priorities that I’m not going to miss. I know I can’t schedule something else during these times, because these are my priorities at that time.

After you’ve entered your busy seasons and priorities for your spouse and kids, add any other important goals you have. This is when I add my founders’ retreat and my time off for rest and self-reflection. 

Continue the Conversation

Once you have your busy seasons, periods of rest, and priorities mapped out on your calendar, share them with your family. Show them the busy seasons and explain to your loved ones why these times are so busy and how you get to fulfill your work purpose during this time. 

Remind them how your work purpose supports your family’s purpose. Ask for their help, patience, and grace. Let them know you may have to work late or you might be less focused at home. Finally, make sure they understand that they are a part of this busy season, too. You couldn’t do it without their love and support.

Show your family members you have scheduled time with each of them where they get to take center stage too, and show them these times on the calendar. Also, share what you’re doing at home with people at work. Everybody in our office shares our ideal years with each other, projecting our calendars up on a screen. This helps us all feel seen and supported.

This is how you invite your loved ones in, showing that you’re going to be intentional about pursuing your life purpose, family purpose, and work purpose together.

Aim for Ideal, Not Perfect

As valuable as the ideal calendar is, remember that it is something to aim for. It’s a North Star. If you shoot for 100 percent and hit 70 percent—or even 60 or 50 percent—that’s still way more than 0 percent! That’s 50 or 70 percent more than you’re doing intentionally now. 

Additionally, it’s worth reminding you that this is something that continually evolves. My ideal year never looks like what actually happens. The first time I tried to create an ideal year, it looked almost nothing like what actually happened—or like how I schedule my year now.

I started out really simple, similar to the first steps here. My very first ideal year calendar just had a line for the busy seasons, a couple of priorities written down, and notes for some of the times I wanted for rest.

As I evaluated and adjusted, my calendar evolved. I was able to improve it year after year. Eventually, because I made it mine and kept refining it, it turned into the work–life harmony I have today. And, if you commit to it, chances are you’ll experience similar results.

For more advice on how to achieve work–life harmony, you can find Work–Life Harmony here.