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Work-life balance: A common sense approach

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Innovative people don't see different things, they see the same things differently. Because of that unique perspective, they often end up turning conventional wisdom upside down.

On the other hand, a lot of people make a name for themselves by making outlandish statements to capture eyeballs and followers. They use semantics, statistics, and narrow, self-serving research to justify their point of view.

For example, some pundits suggest that work-life balance is an outmoded concept that no longer works in the contemporary world where everyone's supposed to be on 24x7. Some make their case by narrowly defining work-life balance as keeping work and life completely separate.

Personally, I've never bought into that age-old concept. I happen to think you can walk and chew gum at the same time. I know I can.

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Nearly all my friends are from work. I've mixed business and pleasure for over 30 years. I worked my tail off, became a successful senior executive, and had loads of fun and good times along the way. I always managed to get the job done, but I also know myself. When I need a break, I take it.

Sometimes you need to completely disconnect and decompress. Other times you can mix it up. It depends on you and your personal needs at the time. It's a question of balance. It's also about knowing yourself, your needs, and the needs of those you love.

How you decide to live your life is all about looking in the mirror and making choices.

As a corporate executive, I worked hard and played hard. When I traveled, I brought my sneakers and shorts and ran in the mornings, before meetings began. It made me feel great and helped the jet lag. At night, I went out to dinner, karaoke, whatever, with customers and my company's regional folks.

Back at the office, I went out with coworkers or my staff at least once a week, oftentimes with our spouses. When I was double booked in meetings all day, I still managed to get home for dinner. Then I sat on the couch with a glass of wine and did PowerPoint for an hour or two while my wife watched TV.

These days, I consult and write. I work at home. Yesterday I took my dogs out for a run, then sat outside and wrote this article which, incidentally, was the brainchild of an old friend and coworker who texted the idea to me from Austin.

This weekend, a former business associate and his wife are coming over to barbeque. Back in the day, my wife and I spent three days babysitting their kids. I threw my back out playing horse with their 7 year-old twins. They're in their 20s now. Good times.

Personally, I think people spend way too much time trying to figure stuff out from books and blogs and not enough time using their own common sense. Sure, you've got to do a little soul-searching and reassessing from time to time, but the answer to the question of how you should spend your life is always inside you.

I think Steve Jobs had it right when he said he "looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."

That approach has always worked for me, as well. Simple.

Image courtesy of Flickr user stuartpilbrow

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