Self-care makes it onto most people’s new year’s resolutions lists.

According to Statista, at the beginning of this year, 52% of Americans wanted to exercise more, 50% wished to eat healthier, and 40% wanted to lose weight, showing how essential well-being is to people trying to make positive lifestyle changes. Moreover, the Workplace Benefit Trends survey by Forbes found that the majority of respondents wanted to spend 2023 working for organizations that put their people first and support them in achieving a healthy work-life balance.

But the fact is, improving your well-being can necessitate a significant time investment. This often implies sacrificing productivity or professional growth.

So, how can you go about finding balance in 2024? Is it possible to support self-care and well-being without sacrificing productivity? Or do concessions have to be made? Let’s get into it.

Define What Well-being and Self-Care Mean to You

One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of investing in well-being is that the term doesn’t only denote physical health. It can stand for different aspects of one’s overall state, including mental health, work environment, financial status, career security, and social connections. And while all of these aspects of your well-being deserve attention, the best way to practice self-care is to define your priorities and goals.

For example, if, in 2024, your well-being objectives include investing in your physical health, then your path toward that goal will differ quite a lot from if you were trying to improve your social life or support your emotional health.

A man focused on self care.

For this reason, you must start your balance-seeking journey by defining what part of your well-being you want to focus on. Then, you need to go through the process of prioritizing your obligations and activities. The truth is that self-care takes time. And, more often than not, you’ll have to find that time within your schedule by surrendering some other activity.

The good news is, however, that gains in well-being usually lead to productivity improvements as well. So, if you have to work a couple of hours less per week to manage all your newly formed healthy habits, keep in mind that your work won’t necessarily suffer but may even benefit from the subtractive productivity approach.

Learn How to Cope with Stress

Adopting new habits is never easy. But, it turns out that changing your behavior is more difficult when dealing with stress.

A scientific study from 2009 found that acute stress exposure promotes habit performance and reduces people’s ability to make decisions based on action-outcome contingencies. So, knowing that being stressed may cause you to continue practicing bad habits instead of sticking to new ones, your 2024 well-being journey must include a direct plan for stress management.

There are many scientifically-backed ways to cope with stress. Meditation, yoga, and breathwork are often quoted as some of the most effective stress-management strategies. However, remember that any hobby that allows you to slow down can be a great way to recover from the challenges of your day-to-day routine.

For example, practices like journaling and mindfulness have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and promote emotional well-being. Or, if you prefer to do your own thing, practicing your hobbies — regardless of whether they’re puzzling, night-sky viewing, or playing an instrument — can all be effective methods for kicking back and practicing some much-needed self-care.

Create a Low-Friction Plan You Can Automate

If your goals for finding balance in 2024 include maintaining high productivity levels, your self-care plan must be as easy to follow as possible.

Effectively, if you can support building positive habits while making it feel like no work, you’ll have fewer opportunities to slip up. Moreover, reducing friction for your healthy behaviors will mean spending less of your mental energy trying to keep up with your plans. Consequently, it will prevent you from harming your work efficiency due to decision fatigue.

There are multiple ways to develop an automated self-care plan. Doing so can be a key factor in helping you reach your well-being goals without the process taking up too much time and sacrificing your productivity.

For example, something as simple as using a template for meal planning can transform healthy eating from a nuisance into a super simple way to keep your nutrition in check. Moreover, it can help ensure that you eat frequently enough (and ingest sufficient protein) to boost your metabolism. That’s a super-effective way to have your body work for you instead of against you when going after your physical and fitness goals.

Alternatively, you could also experiment with habit stacking. If there’s an activity you already perform, you could choose to adopt a self-care or well-being activity that you can do alongside it.

For instance, if you know that your work involves at least one or two bouts of administrative tasks like replying to emails or taking video meetings, you could, technically, work on your health while performing those tasks. Investing in a treadmill desk can be a superb way to hit your daily 10k steps without changing your schedule or putting aside precious time for a walk.

A woman at work.

Accept That You Might Need to Be Flexible at Times

As you go about creating a plan to adopt impactful self-care habits in 2024, there’s one thing you need to remember.

Just as your productivity levels can’t be perpetually high, your physical and mental health might fluctuate too. Of course, this doesn’t mean investing in supporting your well-being won’t be worth it. It just means that you might need to be flexible to ensure you are not putting too much pressure on yourself.

The good news is that self-care doesn’t always have to be written in stone to be effective. In fact, changing up your routine to include both hard work and rest could be the key to attaining sustainable results without burning out.

For instance, if you intend to work on fitness goals in 2024, plan for some detraining weeks in your schedule. This will prevent you from doing too much and provide you with a much-needed opportunity to take a step back, try new ways of keeping active, and listen to your body’s needs without asking too much from it.

Or, if you plan on developing a self-discipline program to improve your productivity, make sure your schedule includes slots dedicated to rest and self-care. That way, you won’t be tempted to do too much at once and will effectively avoid burning out.

Track Your Performance to Find Opportunities to Improve

Lastly, as you endeavor to balance self-care, well-being, and productivity as your 2024 New Year’s goal, remember that the only way to achieve great results is to track your progress. Fortunately, this is easier than ever, thanks to the wide availability of fitness, sleep, and productivity tracking tools and wearables you may already own.

Essentially, by knowing where you started and where you are (as well as determining where you want to be after a predetermined period), you can find opportunities to improve your efforts. Moreover, seeing your progress can give you a much-needed dose of motivation (which is crucial for sustained long-term results) and permit you to recognize and celebrate your wins, no matter how small.

However, if you implement progress tracking, don’t allow the data to take over your life. A recent survey revealed that fitness tracking can boost anxiety. It’s important to remember that even though the data can potentially help you reach your goals more quickly, it may not always be the perfect reflection of your current mental and physical state.

In other words, listening to your body will still be more important in helping you determine how to take better care of yourself than blindly following the instructions of a tech wearable.

Over to You

If you’re one of the many people who intend to improve their well-being in 2024 (or finally find the right balance between self-care and productivity), the most important thing you can do is be kind to yourself.

Ultimately, doing anything to improve your physical or mental health or advance your career is worth investing time in. However, doing it at the expense of your sanity will make it impossible to reach your goals. It will also demotivate you, eventually impairing your ability to get where you want to be. And that’s the exact opposite of what you set out to do in the first place.