From our conversations with hundreds of executives each year, we know that achieving work life harmony remains a significant challenge.

Keeping our different roles in steady equilibrium is often unrealistic, so Jeff Bezos coined the term “work life harmony” to replace “work life balance.” The work life harmony concept centers on the idea that when you strive for harmony instead of balance, your days and weeks can have a repeating pattern of tones and beats—work, family, friends, health, hobbies—that vary in accent and duration.

In this post, we will share strategies, tactics, and tools to make your life a bit easier and save you a few minutes here and there. Small, consistent changes will add up to big progress in your pursuit of work-life harmony. Commit now to acting on at least one of the concepts shared here.

The team at Kirby Partners is cheering you on in your pursuit of excellence and whatever work life harmony looks like for you.

When we stop to reflect on our lives, many of us will realize that we’re like a car traveling at a very fast speed without stopping first to program our GPS.

Our “Clarity Worksheet” will help you focus your momentum on the right things. Grab a piece of paper and copy down these questions. Alternatively, you can print the worksheet from the PDF version of the post.

We encourage you to find a place with minimal distractions and take the time to reflect on your answers.

Clarity worksheet for work life harmony

2. Perform at your peak

Build a morning routine

Standardizing the first 30-120 minutes of your day with a routine helps you get to the part of the day when most adults perform at their best, late morning, in the best possible mindset.

Here are some ideas you can incorporate into your morning routine:

  • Make your bed
  • Exercise
  • Stretch
  • Journal / reflect
  • Affirmations
  • Reading

Start with just a few of these ideas and decide what works best for you.

Even just getting up 15 minutes earlier can make a big difference in how your day will unfold.

For lower-stress mornings, set out your clothes, pack your lunch, fill your water bottle, and do as much as possible to get prepared the evening before.

Small wins and changes can add up. Reading 30 minutes each morning will add up to about 24 books a year on average, putting you in the top 1% of Americans.

Make time for rest and renewal

You simply must make rest a priority if you want to spend a long period of your life in a high performing career path.

More than 4 in 10 (46%) U.S. workers don’t use their paid time off according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center. Plan ahead and ensure you’re using your time off.

A study from UCLA Anderson School of Management showed that treating a regular weekend like a vacation made people significantly happier and more relaxed on Monday morning.

Treat yourself a few times a year to a weekend staycation. Let the chores slide and go play at the beach with your family or camp out in the backyard.

You don’t even have to DO anything to get the renewal of rest in your day. Researchers at the University of Lancashire Department of Psychology conducted a study that showed that unstructured time spent doing NOTHING increased creativity and reduced stress.

Create more margins in your life

Try scheduling a 15 minute buffer in between all of your calendar items as a matter of policy. Use this time for planning, dealing with urgent items or even just walking outside.

It’s worth the effort to audit your calendar to find inefficiencies as well. Use a process improvement and workflow design lens and apply that mindset to deconstructing your personal time.

Find the areas of your life where you tend to live close to the edge. Are you always running late? Running out of money? Running out of physical and emotional energy?

Take a good, hard look at the beliefs that are pushing you to live in these areas of your life with no margin. Develop a plan to explore and correct the distortions you have.

Draft your “not to do list”

Figuring out what NOT to do can be as powerful as adding another “to do” to your life. Use our “not to do” list to evaluate which of your routine tasks and activities can be automated, delegated, or eliminated.

When thinking about tasks to delegate it’s helpful to consider how much your time is worth. The simplest way to do this is to take two numbers:

  1. The amount of time you spend to earn money
  2. The amount of money you earn during that time

When determining how much time you spend making money include the total time spent, not just the hours you’re physically at work.

For example, if you spend one hour commuting to work and eight hours at work, then it costs you nine hours to earn money that day. If you’re unsure how much time you spend working, use 2,500 hours per year as a starting point.

The value of your time is just part of the equation; there are likely tasks that you loathe or aren’t good at, so those may make sense to outsource even if it costs you more than your hourly rate.

Work life harmony not to do list worksheet

3. Work smarter, not harder

Take control of your email

Studies show that people with an email application open on their computer switch windows 37 times per minute and spend up to ¼ of their day on email wrangling.

To take back control, try implementing Inbox Zero principles:

  • Silence notifications and check email at specific times
  • Quickly eliminate as many new items in your inbox as possible by deleting or archiving messages
  • Forward emails that can be delegated
  • Respond immediately to emails that can be answered in two minutes or less
  • Move messages that require a lengthy response to a “requires response” folder; set aside scheduled time every day to answer these emails

“Own” your schedule

Calendar blocking is one of the most useful tools for taking control of your schedule. Essentially, calendar blocking is scheduling your to-do list against your calendar. You block off the time you’ll be working on a specific project ahead of time, and then during that time, you work on that project.

Why is this important? Interruptions break your momentum. It takes an average of 15 minutes to return to a task after a disruption. Our electronic beeps and alerts can be the biggest source of misdirected attention.

When you start one of your calendar blocks to work on a focused task, put your phone away or try installing a phone lock app, designed to limit usage during set times.

Also, consider implementing “office hours” where team members can stop by to discourage interruptions at less optimal times.

Consider what meetings are necessary within your scope of authority and trim unnecessary meetings from your schedule.

Try the pomodoro technique

The pomodoro technique was developed in the 80s and is named after the Italian word for tomato—which was the shape of the kitchen timer used by its creator.

The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals called pomodoros, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

  1. Decide on the task to be done
  2. Set your timer for 25 minutes
  3. Work on the task
  4. End work when timer rings, and put a checkmark on a piece of paper
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go back to step 2
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1

Honor your natural energy cycle

Research has determined that the human body has a natural energy cycle that is the same each day.

We begin the day alert and energy levels begin to decline after lunch, hitting a low after 3 p.m. We often blame this on lunch, but it’s a natural function of our circadian rhythms.

Alertness then increases again hitting another peak around 6 p.m., declining until it’s time to sleep. Night owls have this same pattern of peak energy and alertness but it’s shifted later.

By organizing your tasks around your natural energy flow, you can achieve optimal efficiency. Your most important tasks should be conducted when you are at or near your peaks in alertness. Your least important tasks should be scheduled when alertness is lower.

Batch your work

Batching is a strategy in which you group similar tasks together and do them consecutively.

This allows you to focus better, which in turns improves productivity and performance. Another key benefit of batch working is that there’s “less ramp” up time.

For example, if you have to evaluate the performance of several of your managers, dedicate a number of hours to do so, and get as many evaluations done as possible in that time. For the best results, give yourself a five to 10 minute break every 90 minutes.

To get started:

  • Get out your to-do list
  • Group similar tasks by their function (e.g. email, calls, meetings, housework, errands) and location (e.g. home, computer, downtown, car)
  • Split your days into segments and assign each task category a dedicated window of time

Simplify your tracking methods

Productivity guru David Allen has developed what he calls the Five Step Process for tracking “to dos.”

  • Capture 100% of what has your attention – little, big; personal and professional; write down everything that you need to accomplish.
  • Process what it means – Is it actionable? If not, trash it or save it to your long term list. If yes, than decide the next action required. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now. If not, delegate it or put it on a list for when you can.
  • Keep several lists organized by theme in locations that make sense. Each has its own category and location – a list of phone calls to make would be stored on your phone, errands to run in your car console, emails to send on your work desktop, etc.
  • Review Frequently – Do a weekly review to clean up, update, and clear away unnecessary items.

A Kanban chart can be a great way to keep tracking tool as well. You set up four columns: Ideas, To Do, Doing, and Done. Then, you put tasks on Post-Its and move them across the board each morning and afternoon. It’s a great way to remind yourself and your family of what is in “flight”. You can color code for people or task types.

Implement daily check-ins for better work life harmony

  • Am I spending my time the way I want to?
  • Have I set boundaries to protect the most important parts of my life?
  • Are my habits and routines in line with my priorities?
  • Have I communicated my priorities to the people closest to me?
  • Do I have a system to identify and prevent burnout?

Another tip is to track how much time you use social media daily and replace just HALF of that time with another activity that you find renewing and refreshing.

The iPhone makes it really easy to see exactly how you’re spending time with its “screen time feature”; you can see exactly how much time you’re wasting on non-essential tasks, set limits for yourself, and give yourself password-protected “curfews” if you struggle with social media self-control.

Hone your focus by implementing “sprints” or “seasons”

When faced with a large project to complete, see it as a series of tasks that can be accomplished week by week, rather than becoming overwhelmed when looking at the project as a whole.

A personal sprint can be working to get ready for a 5K rather than the huge goal of “losing 20 pounds and lowering your blood pressure.”

Try picking a “theme of the week” to focus on and sprint your way to making a really dent in your action plan.

4. Aim for continuous improvement

We often get stuck in a default mode of being hard on ourselves or trying to make a lifestyle work because we are supposed to or everyone else is doing it.

When you think of your own life as a process of continual improvement, each day is an opportunity to get closer to work life harmony.

Pay attention to what doesn’t work, to what doesn’t feel right, and make adjustments.

Track the results and keep doing what works for you. Drop the stuff that doesn’t, guilt-free.

In the IT world, scope and requirements change; the same goes for your life.

Start your journey towards better work life harmony today

Ultimately, achieving work life harmony is a continuous journey that requires self-reflection, planning, and a willingness to make adjustments.

By clarifying your goals, creating a morning routine, making time for rest and renewal, and implementing strategies to work smarter, you can take control of your time and energy. Regularly assess what’s working and what’s not, and don’t be afraid to make changes when necessary. You’ll develop habits that support your personal and professional growth by staying committed to your goals and open to new strategies.

At Kirby Partners, we understand the challenges of maintaining work life harmony. We hope the strategies, tactics, and tools shared in this post will help you create a life that aligns with your values and priorities.

Remember, excellence is a habit, and by consistently making small, positive changes, you’ll be well on your way to achieving the work life harmony you desire.

(Here’s a PDF version of this post if you’d like it for reference: Kirby Partners’ Guide to Work Harmony.)

We’ve worked with thousands of job seekers, and know from our executive search practice that nearly all interviewers rely on a fairly standard set of executive interview questions.

While it’s impossible to know exactly what you’ll be asked, chances are you’ll see some variation of these questions. You can give yourself a leg up and walk into the interview more confident by preparing your responses to these interview questions in advance.

We’ll start by giving you the formula to use to answer ANY behavioral interview question and then we’ll dive into ten executive interview questions you should absolutely expect to be asked.

The formula for answering behavioral interview questions

While there may not be a “right” answer for most behavioral interview questions, one of the aspects your interviewer will evaluate is how well you structure your answer.

The PAR technique provides an easy structure for answering behavioral interview questions. PAR stands for Problem, Action, Result.

  • Start by describing the Problem or situation was that you had to handle.
  • Next, explain the Action you took to address the problem.
  • Finally, describe the Result of your actions and decisions. Make sure to quantify the results.

10 commonly asked executive interview questions

1. What is the greatest accomplishment of your career?

This is a classic interview question and one you should absolutely be prepared to answer. It is also a great opportunity to practice the art of the humble brag.

Describe a great challenge you overcame, how your work helped your company achieve a milestone record or a personal goal that you set for yourself and surpassed.

Don’t be arrogant or smug (here’s where the “humble” part comes in) but describe how your hard work helped to make a positive difference for your company or coworkers.

2. If you could change anything in your past, what would that be?

Interviewers ask this question to get an idea about your attitude and your character. Be honest with your answer but put a positive spin on it.

Talk about what you learned from a mistake, how it changed you for the better and how you’ve been able to help others from repeating the same mistake.

3. What skills are you lacking?

Tread lightly here. You don’t want to highlight any areas that would be a red flag on your ability to perform this job well.

Describe areas where your skills are not as strong and then describe how you’re working to strengthen them.

4. What do you dislike about your current job?

This is not an opportunity to bash your current company, talk about how much of a monster your boss is or whine that you’re overqualified for your current position, but they just won’t promote you.

Whatever your job is lacking should be something that this job will fulfill, as well as something that you can help the company with.

5. Tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.

You probably tailored your resume to match the qualifications for this job description, in which case, you should have plenty of other skills to discuss. Talk about an attribute or some unique experience you have that could help you in this new position.

6. Tell me about a time when you clashed with your supervisor.

This question shows the interviewer your problem-solving skills and how you handle disagreements with superiors.

Be mature in your response and make sure the story ends on a positive note.

Describe how you worked through the situation, while remaining professional and productive.

7. What makes you excited about Mondays?

This is simple – what do you like about your career? What are you passionate about?

Be positive and upbeat in your response. Let your passion for the job shine through.

8. What will your team learn from you?

Highlight your best leadership qualities and the value your experience and knowledge will bring to a team.

Give examples of how your coaching abilities have helped employees improve their skills in previous jobs.

9. Why do you want to work here?

This is your opportunity to show off how much research you did before this interview.

Give specific facts about the company that you like. Maybe it’s their corporate values, their community involvement or a great new product they’re bringing to market.

10. Why should we hire you?

Put on your salesperson hat to answer this question.

Based on what you’ve gathered from your research, the job description, and the interview process, what is it that they need that you can provide?

Explain how your qualifications and experience make you the absolute best fit for this position.

Tips for acing executive interview questions

When you’re using examples in your answers, always quantify them if possible.  You can tell your interviewer you’re a “fast runner” (for example) but it paints a different picture about your dedication and skill level if you tell them you “run a 4-minute mile.”

Also, keep your answers to a maximum of 90 seconds.  Failing to be concise in your answers can cost you the job. This is the second biggest reason, just behind lack of preparation, that hiring authorities cite for cutting candidates. 

While it’s important to fully answer the question, if your response goes on more than about a minute it’s usually too long. Ensure you’re monitoring the body language of your interviewer as well; they’ll usually start giving you clues if you’re rambling or speaking too quickly.

Practice makes perfect

Preparing for an interview is crucial for a success. By understanding common interview questions and practicing your responses, you can confidently showcase your qualifications and fit for the role.

Your resume is the ticket to the job of your dreams, so it’s critical to avoid making these common resume mistakes that will cause hiring managers and recruiters to put your resume into the “no” pile.

We receive hundreds of resumes each month, and those that stand out have a clear focus, content that showcases the results the executive has achieved (rather than duties), and a simple, easy-to-read design. 

To ensure that your resume is an effective marketing piece for you and gets you interviews, ensure you avoid these common resume mistakes.

Resume errors to avoid

1. Listing duties but not accomplishments

A long list of all of the things you’ve been responsible for in your previous jobs means very little to a potential employer.

Instead, discuss what you’ve accomplished through those responsibilities.

Recap your successes in each position and list challenges you’ve overcome. These will have far more impact than simply stating that you managed projects and implemented new procedures. Re-position your duties as accomplishments that demonstrate your capabilities and qualifications.

2. Failing to quantify your impact

Before making a big purchase, you likely do a little research first. In your research, you probably see facts like 95 percent of users gave a 5-star review or four-out-of-five doctors recommend this product. Isn’t it more reassuring to see a list of these hard numbers rather than just a list of attributes about the product on the company’s website?

Now apply that thought process to your resume. Failing to quantify accomplishments is the number one resume mistake we see!

Filling your resume with flowery language about how you led your team to success or implemented new systems means very little to a hiring manager without quantifiables to back up your claims. When it comes to landing an executive-level position, you need to be specific about exactly what you’ve accomplished.

Perhaps you increased sales by 78 percent or helped decrease employee turnover by 20 percent.

Including quantifiable, hard facts helps to validate your achievements in the eyes of the hiring manager.

3. Over-designing your resume

Incorporating fancy graphs, charts, colors or images into your resume may capture a recruiter’s attention, but it might not be for the right reason.

Elaborately-designed resumes are often more difficult to decipher and cause the reader to have to hunt for relevant information.

Picking an ineffective resume template is one of the most common resume mistakes we see.

Unless you’re applying for a job in a field like graphic design, it’s better to stick to a resume in a classic format with a simple, black, sans-serif font. You won’t get an interview if the hiring manager can’t read your resume.

Remember, your resume is the first impression a potential employer will have of you, so take the time to tailor it to the job position and tell your career story as effectively and efficiently as possible.

4. Including too much or not enough

Like Goldilocks, you want to make sure your resume is not too short, not too long, but just the right length to highlight your greatest accomplishments and your breadth of experience.

There’s a common misconception that a resume should be no longer than one page, but that is simply not true nor is it feasible for a professional who has reached an executive level.

Even if you don’t have years of experience under your belt, by the time you’re ready to take on the C-suite, you’ve likely got more experience and knowledge than one page can contain – at least not without using an unreadable small font.

It’s also important not to try to fill up several pages just to make it look like you’ve got a lot of experience. Listing out every single job responsibility you’ve ever had on your resume is a waste of your time and your potential employer’s time.

While a good rule of thumb is to aim for three pages or fewer, remember that your resume should be only long enough to give the recruiter the information they need to determine you’re a qualified candidate for the position.

5. Using a one-size-fits-all resume

Just as you should tailor the suit you wear to the interview, you need to tailor your resume to the job description. Taking the time to customize your resume to the keywords in the job listing will help you stand out as a qualified candidate.

However, do not lie or stretch the truth about your work history to make yourself look like the right person for the job.

You must have the experience and knowledge to back up what your resume says; if you don’t have the right experience, look elsewhere, but if you do, then make sure that is very clear in your resume.

6. Including an objective statement

While objective statements were a resume trend in the past, including one is now a resume mistake.

A potential employer doesn’t need a summary of what you’re looking for in a job.

Instead, tell them what you are brining to the position. These are called executive statements, and they are essentially just a few sentences that describe your qualifications and what you have to offer to the position.

As with the rest of your resume, it’s important to tailor this summary to the position.

7. Writing with lazy language

An executive’s resume needs to be filled with powerful, action-oriented words. A resume with half-sentences about improving processes and meeting quotas is lackluster at best.

When you’re vying for the C-suite, use energetic and authoritative words like launched, initiated and motivated. Be proud of the accomplishments you’ve made and use language that reflects the importance of what you’ve done.

Action verbs will keep the reader interested and help improve the flow of your resume.

8. Skipping spell check

This is one of the easiest mistakes to avoid, and unfortunately, one of the most common. Spelling and grammatical errors may not seem like a huge deal, but they are often deal-breakers for hiring managers.

Think about it from your potential employer’s perspective: If you can overlook typos on your resume, you can probably overlook errors in your work.

Small errors can lead to costly mistakes that an employer may not be able to afford, especially from an executive-level employee.

Take the extra time to proofread your resume and run it by a colleague or friend as well to ensure you don’t overlook anything.

9. Overusing buzzwords

Saturating your resume with industry buzzwords will probably do nothing but irritate the hiring manager. You certainly need to understand and be able to properly use your industry’s key buzzwords, but you don’t have to prove your knowledge of them in your resume. It’s acceptable to incorporate them sparingly where appropriate, but if you stuff your resume full of industry jargon, you run the risk of looking like you’re trying too hard and getting your resume tossed in the trash.

Make your resume work for you

Before you submit your resume, we encourage you to carefully evaluate your resume against this list to make sure you’re not making these common resume mistakes. 

It takes courage to admit something isn’t working with your resume.

But the sooner you fix your resume mistakes, the faster you’ll be on your way to career success.