Life balance is often seen as mutually exclusive with work. Having to be away from your family can often mean that the time is spent with them is all the more precious. Whether you are traveling on a plane or just commuting to the office by train or car, making the most of that precious family home time is difficult when your mind has to be on other things. 'Home' time here really can refer to any time that is not allocated to work or business - bFather and son spending quality time kayakingCredit: Morguefileoth of which could be physically located at your home. Here are a few tips and tricks which can help with staying "in sync" with your home or family life while you have to be away.

Find a good way to visualize how your home calendar is looking

Forgetting home commitments such as kindergarten committee meetings, dinner dates, makes scheduling any quality time impossible. You end up always behind and unable to plan how your time will be spent. Needless to say, your family ends up losing out as time is wasted.
In today's world of accessible gadgetry, most phones come with a calendar, and quite often have the ability to stay synchronised to email or online calendar. A good example is Gmail's calendar, which can be kept in sync with a number of different mobile phone calendars. The key is to make sure that you and your partner or spouse are able to send and receive important calendar entries. So much time can be saved by simply sending a calendar entry and checking whether it is accepted or another date suggested. As long as you can visualize your home time schedule easily, it should be possible to at least reduce the likelihood of double bookings, forgotten events, or unprepared catastrophies. A great application on the iPhone which allows plain weekly or monthly views of google calendars is Weekly Diary. Whatever you use, make sure that it facilitates you being able to instantly grab a mental image of how your time is allocated. A mobile calendar or planner that is overly difficult to navigate or get to the information quickly, can be more of a time waster than a useful tool. Once you have an easy way to remember and plan all those important dates, you will have a firm base for securing some quality family home time.

Keep your priorities clear and remember the important things

By working out where your priorities lie, the decisions you will need to make about what you do and when you can do things, will be clear cut. We all know how hard it is to make a decision when someone just does not know what they want. Writing down what you want to acheive in the long and short term is an invaluable way to allow yourself to make a significant start on arranging for things to be that way. So for example, you might promise to yourself that you want to always put aside time to a date night with your partner or spouse at a regular interval, say, every fortnight. Knowing that this is one of your goals lets you focus on what needs to be done for it to happen. And by having your own priorities clear, you will be sure of not shortchanging the ones you love with misleading messages about what they can expect of you.

Remembering where you left off

Most of us have found ourselves thinking to ourselves, "when I get back I will do...", only to end up having to focus our energy on a problematic task at work, or being distracted by a long shift. When we do eventually make it home hours or sometimes days later, those initial thoughts of what we were going to do are nothing but a vague recollection of some important forgotten idea that will hWorking mother with smart phoneCredit: Morguefileopefully, "come back to me if it is important". All too often, by the time it does come back to us, we're not in a good position to do anything and whatever we wanted to do has to wait.

'Brain dumping' is a simiar concept to making a quick backup of a document we are working on on a computer, or taking a snapshot of a diagram on a white board so that we can quickly resume where we left off, at a later time. One job that I worked required me to keep track of things that I was working on, people who needed to be called, and other tasks that needed attention - I would often leave work but find myself thinking about the job at various times over the weekend. There was a nagging feeling of forgetting what needed to be done next week, which also had the side-effect of making the outstanding work appear more involved than it usually was. I found that by writing down everything I was thinking just before I left and mentally letting go at that point, I woud be more relaxed, and think less about the job on the weekend, and easily be able to pick up where I left off upon returning on the following Monday. Most times things would even look easier when I saw them fresh on paper that morning! Conversely, by doing the exact same thing when leaving home, it is much easier to remember the things I need to do, when I am home, and spend much less time floundering around, or being distracted while I try to remember what I was thinking about before work.

Find opportunities to be creative and spontaneous

Being more organized means less energy is required to keep everything running at home and away. And funnily enough, this usually means a less cluttered mind, are you are then free to remember some of the great times that most likely played a part in starting your family. Make a note to yourself to keep an eye out for an idea that you can suggest for family time. When you know what you are looking for, you're much more likely to see the opportunity when it presents itself. Personally, I sometimes need to force myself to relax and just get into that mental zone where I know I will come up with great ideas for things to do. There are days and nights that I do find myself having to put aside even an hour,  to dedicate to looking for a special birthday surpise, or a novel activity that the family will enjoy. Later, it feels like so many milestones have been achieved, to be able to be able to remember those slices of life and have put in that something extra on top of the experiences. 

Have a way to signal to yourself when work ends and family time begins

Finally, for some of us, transitioning mentally from work to family time can still be challenging. Even once you have brain dumped, and organized your time, and planned some great activities or things you need to do, telling yourself that you are home can be tricky. Often, the transtion can be as simple as putting on those comfortable shoes you have, or just taking off that work uniform, opening a drink, or maybe listening to a certain type of music just before you arrive. Whatever works for you, find out what it is by remembering things you do which are related only to your out of work time. By using that activity as a trigger to separate your personal and work time, you'll be sure to sucessfully maximize your time with your family and away from work or business.