Forget what you might think you know about work-life balance. It's almost impossible to have true balance between your professional and personal life. After all, balance implies that there needs to be a strict tradeoff between the two.

Instead, approach this relationship as work-life harmony where your work life and personal life become integrated parts that ebb and flow, so there is no pressure or stress when you take time for yourself. After all, when your personal life is fulfilled, you bring more energy and focus to your work and are better for those around you. When your business life is more satisfying, and doesn't feel like it is weights you down, it carries over to your personal life as well.

Work-life harmony is often difficult to maintain and requires being intentional about how you run your day and life. What can you do? Here are some strategies from top CEOs on how they manage their work-life harmony.

1. Get creative.

Scheduling personal and family time is often tight when you work long hours, which is especially true among CEOs. This is why many have to get creative in how they block off sufficient time.

For instance, Henrik Kjellberg, CEO of European Vacation Rentals, enjoys Ironman events and squeezes in his training by cycling from his home to the office and back, or he runs halfway and then takes public transportation to work. Ron Johnson, CEO of Enjoy Technology, a company that delivers and sets up personal technology products, said he once had a streak of 64 consecutive breakfasts with his son as it was the most consistent time when they could be together.

I make sure to block at least an hour each morning for myself as that is when I have the most energy to work out, and it helps me stay clear-headed and fresh throughout the day. I can feel the difference in my focus and stress level if I miss working out, so as a rule I make sure to keep that time always available for me.

Your available personal and family time may be small, but if you look closer and take creative approaches when needed, you can often find it.

2. Intentionally unplug.

Make sure that work doesn't impede with personal time. One way some CEOs do this is to completely unplug for a certain period when away from their work. This could mean turning off their phone when at home and putting away the computer until everyone has gone to bed.

Even small gestures can help maintain that wall between the two worlds. I utilize the "do not disturb" setting on my phone when I am in meetings, working out, or spending time with my family. I utilize this function because I have kids and they can still contact me if needed.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, also says he always turns off his phone during his daughter's lacrosse game. It's his time to be present with his family and any interruptions--like doing a quick e-mail check--can disrupt the moment.

3. Track your time.

Tracking the amount of time you spend (or don't) in your personal and family life can help you be more aware of when your work-life harmony is off.  

Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware, a company that  provides cloud computing and platform virtualization software and services, maintains a chart where he awards himself points based on how much time he spends with his family. For instance, he gives himself a point for arriving home by 6 p.m. in time for dinner. He also deducts points when he works late or is away on business. It may sound labor-intensive, but Gelsinger has used this tool for 25 years and it shows him when he needs to make changes in how he manages his business day, like shortening meetings and not wasting time on long phone calls.

I always block time on my calendar for my personal and family activities and stick to it. Otherwise, it often doesn't happen because it's so easy to keep working and not shift gears.

Fitting in both professional and personal time is hard for most entrepreneurs. It's a constant back-and-forth struggle. But instead of working to create an unachievable balance between them, focus instead in how these two worlds can better co-exist with intention.

When you achieve work-life harmony, both parts of your lives can better thrive, and you can improve your leadership and innovation in business, and be more present for the people around you.

Published on: Jan 24, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.