Jack Welch famously said there’s no such thing as work life balance, only work life choices. Having been married three times, it appears Jack may have chosen work one too many times. I must say though, I believe there’s truth behind what Jack is saying.
People often use work-life balance as a euphemism for saying “I’m working too much!” It’s funny; I’ve never heard anyone use the phrase work-life balance in the context of “I’ve been relaxing too much! I need to start working more!” In the professional world, work-life balance means your life should be more than just about work, which is true. However, I don’t think it’s as much about achieving a balance as it is making choices based on priorities.
During my Executive MBA program so far, “work-life balance” means spending less time with my family than I would like. It’s a conscious decision based on the priority of getting an MBA. My wife is behind that decision 100%, which is absolutely crucial (although sometimes I’m sure she wants a mulligan on it). An EMBA student who’s a year ahead of me recently said that once she decided to give up her personal life, the EMBA program became less stressful. Was that achieving “work-life balance?” I’m not sure. Was it the right decision? Probably.
My OneMBA colleagues and I are just finishing the first module in our EMBA program at Kenan-Flagler Business School and currently have three take home exams and a global operations project that are all due in less than two weeks. You could see the stress beginning to simmer at class a week ago, and it’s downright palpable now when we talk to each other over the phone. So much for work-life balance this week and next week! We are almost at the top though (of the first module that is) and a week residency in Amsterdam and Istanbul awaits us not too long from now.
Please don’t think my family or personal life is not a priority to me. I hardly touched a school book for about two weeks in December, and my wife and I are taking a week in Europe just before my residency starts in Amsterdam. My thought here though is that we shouldn’t focus on achieving some ideal “balance.” Instead we should think about making tough choices based on our priorities, choices that are rewarding in the end but may require some imbalance for a while.
Lee Lowder is an attorney who is pursuing his MBA at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler’s Business School. HIs previous posts: