Do we work to live or do we live to work?

The answer is "both." We need to work in order to provide for ourselves and our families. We also work for personal fulfillment. All humans need the sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well done.

Things go awry when our personal and working lives go out of balance. Not that it's possible to maintain a state of equilibrium at all times; sometimes it's necessary to spend a period of time highly immersed in one area of your life or the other. The operative phrase is "a period of time."

Let's face it; the working world is much more demanding than it ever has been. Hours worked per week have been creeping up and days of vacation taken have been shrinking.

So what's a person to do?

To maintain balance, I recommend that you develop specific goals and priorities set around areas of your life that are important to you. Don't just say, "I want to spend more time with my kids." You have to be much more specific if you are going to succeed. What are your personal objectives or goals for the day, week, month or year? Are you scheduling time to focus on your family, friends, hobbites and, importantly, your health?

I am the father of three daughters, a husband, a gainfully employed executive of a large company, an author and public speaker. Time is a precious commodity to me - one that I take care to manage precisely.

So, for example, my wife and I actually sit down to do weekly planning together. After all, my wife depends on me to free up time for her as much as I depend on her to help me - though I have to admit she does most of the heavy lifting for the family. We also plan our two family vacations each year and get them on the calendar in January, if we can.

Sometimes the common sense, the simple approach, can be the best approach. Maintain a weekly/daily to-do list. You can do it on your computer or do it the old fashioned way - hand written on lined note paper. Better yet, use a journal that will become a permanent time management record.

Creating the list brings some needed discipline and organization to the trickly life-work balancing act. It will become a routine exercise that will allow you to not only organize your time but - and this is important - to prioritize your time commitments. If you find yourself with more than five MUST-DO items for a give day, chances are they're not all must do items.

As basic as this is, it's amazing how well it works. I look at my do-to list often and try to remain focused on it. By the end of the day, I usually have the must-do items accomplished.

Keep in mind, however, that quite often your gut instinct can be a more reliable measure of work-life balance than your reasoning mind. Most of us tend to rationalize an imbalance when we look at things from a "logical" perspective. Why? Because we either don't want to have to face issues in certain areas of our lives or because we're doing what we think we should be doing according to some unrealistic standards.

It pays to take a few minutes every week to clear your head, review your business and personal lives - and listen to what your gut has to say.

Author's Bio: 

Rob Waite, author and lecturer, is a senior executive with leadership expereince in domestic and international business. His successes include start-ups, turnarounds and multinational strategic partnerships. His latest book is entitled, "The Lost Art of General Management."