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Metaphors abound in discussing work-life balance, starting, of course, with a weight scale. Here's a new one: A symphony. "Like an orchestra, our lives are divided into different parts or areas, each with their own focus. Where an orchestra has strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion, our lives have work, family, faith, fitness, and so on," author Michael Hyatt writes on his blog.

The sound of your life comes from those elements of, as he calls them, life accounts. Focus on one to the exclusion of others, and the music won't come out right. To ensure harmony, he urges you to build these five habits:

  • Diversify: A symphonic life is an ensemble. A tuba isn’t enough on its own. All the instruments must come together.
  • Space: You must make room for each of the instruments. The first violin can’t steal the part of the woodwinds.
  • Pace: If work, family and faith are out of synch, you’ll have problems, just as if the strings aren’t in synch with the percussion.
  • Common purpose: Everyone in the orchestra shares a common purpose.

Similarly in your symphonic life, work or the other life accounts don't exist for themselves. They serve a greater, common purpose – or it all falls to pieces.

A plan: Symphonies have longstanding organizational patterns. Your symphonic life also needs a plan that outlines the role of each account, your values, and the envisioned future.

Want balance and harmony? Think of your life as a symphony.

Women having it all might be impossible

Indra K. Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, says every day – indeed, several times a day -- she has to make a decision about whether she is going to be a wife, mother, or an executive. Can women have it all? She says they can't – they can only pretend to have it all.

In an interview with The Atlantic, she says in raising their two children, she and her husband had to involve others to help in their role as parents. "We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I'm not sure they will say that I've been a good mom," she says.

One time, when a daughter was in a Catholic school, coffee was organized every Wednesday morning for the mothers at 9 a.m., not exactly an ideal time for a working woman. So she missed most of those sessions, feeling guilt that her daughter only heightened each Wednesday evening, listing off all the mothers who attended and adding, "You were not there, mom."

Working parents need coping mechanisms, and so she began to call the school and ask which mothers didn't attend. Then Wednesday evening she could defend herself, naming those not present that morning. "You have to cope, because you die with guilt. You just die with guilt," she says.

"….the biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict. When you have to have kids you have to build your career. Just as you're rising to middle management your kids need you because they're teenagers, they need you for the teenage years."

Some do it better than others

Here are the 20 best jobs for work-life balance, as reported in Business News Daily, from ratings on the Glassdoor site in the past year:

  • Data scientist
  • SEO specialist
  • Tour guide
  • Lifeguard
  • Social media manager
  • Group fitness instructor
  • User experience designer
  • Corporate communications
  • Firefighter
  • Equity trader
  • Law clerk
  • Investment analyst
  • Administrative assistant
  • Office assistant
  • Sales representative
  • Help-desk technician
  • Substitute teacher
  • Carpenter
  • Real estate broker
  • Game designer

Here's some recent research news on work-life balance

If you're not getting enough sleep at night, it may be because you're wasting time – procrastinating – before going to bed, The Daily Beast reports. Researchers at Utrecht University found that by extending pre-sleep routines for no reason, people were robbing themselves of vital sleep and as a result were fatigued the next day. Interestingly, while most procrastination is to avoid unenjoyable activities, sleep is considered enjoyable but the procrastination still occurs.

If you want to lose weight, take a digital sabbatical every night. That's the provocative hypothesis of New York Magazine contributing editor Jennifer Senior, who looked at the latest scientific research that suggests not only do our electronic devices encourage a more sedentary lifestyle but keeping them on until late at night rather than taking a break agitates us and reduces our sleep, which in turn leads us to reach for comfort food. She concludes "all of our cells, be they inside our bodies or in the palms of our hands, could use a good rest."

Researchers found that when employees in the information technology department of a Fortune 500 company were given greater control over when and where they worked, and more supervisor support for their family and personal lives, the result was significantly less work-family conflict. The Venitism blog, in reporting the study, noted that crucially employees who were more likely to be vulnerable to work-family conflict, such as parents and individuals with less-supportive supervisors initially, benefited most from the intervention. The study shows systemic change in organizations can benefit large numbers of people rather than depending on individuals to improve their balance.

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