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Balance vs. Harmony


As a professional woman, you can’t make it far into your career without worrying about work-life balance. It’s an issue exacerbated by technology and our ability to take work home with us. We all make choices as how to best “balance” everything going on around us. What if we’re approaching the issue with the wrong mindset and balance isn’t what we want to strive for at all?

At a recent Lunch with The Source, Dr. Michelle Owens, Maternal Fetal Medicine subspecialist and Professor in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UMMC, shared her idea of “work-life harmony” (not balance). She made her case by pointing out that balancing means you are giving all sides equal attention (and are most likely going to fall at some point). Good harmony, as any musician knows, means that at some points certain instruments get softer to give the spotlight to other instruments. The different harmonies throughout a musical piece are what make beautiful music.

In our lives, as it is in music, there are certain parts of our worlds that need to grow quieter at certain times in order for us to give our attention to what is most important at that moment. There are times at work where a project needs all of your attention. All of our community involvement has to be put on hold. We tell friends we’ll have to catch up next month, and we hope and pray our family understands. There are other times when our family demands all our attention. It’s not always that drastic, but to some degree, we are constantly reevaluating what merits our focus and efforts each and every day.

Some of the post successful people subscribe to the idea of “work-life harmony”. This article claims Jeff Bezos, CEO & President of Amazon, swears by the idea and encourages his employees to do the same in order to create a more positive work environment. Bezos claims striving for work-life balance can be “debilitating” and that he “prefer[s] the word ‘harmony’ to the word ‘balance’ because balance tends to imply a strict tradeoff.”

So, how do we stop thinking about balance and start thinking about harmony? A few thoughts:

Assess What’s on Your Plate

Our constant balancing act becomes easier when we take a long, hard look at what all we’re balancing. Drop whatever dead weight you can, leaving only those things that are necessary or bring you joy and passion. Delegate as much as you can, at work and at home.

Rethink Your Tasks

The idea of “work-life balance” makes it sound like we are giving equal time to all tasks in order to achieve this balance. So, for the hour we take off to attend our child’s field trip, we dedicate an extra hour to work. If we’re going to achieve “work-life harmony”, we’ve got to rethink our time management. By zeroing in on our most important tasks and finding peace when we inevitably can’t get everything done, we take a step closer to work-life harmony.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

It’s easier said than done, but a shift in perspective can change your day, your mood, and the way you interact with those around you. Accepting that your priorities are fluid and some things can wait can create a more harmonious life, both personally and professionally.