Finding Work-Life Balance In An EMBA Program

Ashley Sager, MIT

Ashley Sager, MIT

“I would have two pieces of advice.  First, plan your work and work your plan – ensure that you understand the commitments you have at work, home and school and plan what you are going to do (make smart plans that are attainable), then stick to the plan. Second, set expectations with both work and family. If your plan includes staying at work late then let your family know. It is much worse to know you need to work late but not tell your spouse in hopes you’ll finish early. In this case, it is not better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, trust me! Similarly, inform work that you will not be available via email while at school. Do not try to schedule calls or time to work on school days, if possible, as it sends a signal to your company that you can make time even when at school.  Let work and family know that for anything important during school days they will need to call you.” – Ashley Sager, MIT, Sloan School of Management

“Be prepared to make tradeoffs. It simply is not possible to do everything, and one needs to prioritize and make conscious tradeoffs…There are however ways to make it easier, especially professionally. I advise all future MBA candidates that they must have a strong, established and stable team behind them. This made the world of difference for me, partly because it is my leadership style. However, just having an empowered team is sometimes not enough. Try to keep the team stable and mature to minimize turbulence. I planned for my MBA 2 years in advance and shared these aspirations with my team so we could all plan for this event, including my CEO. With respect to your family life, this is an area which will most likely experience the largest impact. Once again, this was a decision I made with my wife over 2 years ago and we planned for this accordingly. I also brought my wife along on a few of the modules, which made the distance apart much shorter and involved her in the MBA with other families and colleagues. Finally, from the education perspective, be prepared to go into this learning experience with a blank canvas and with as few pre-conceived beliefs as possible and be prepared to push yourself.” – Flavio Palaci, IESE Global Executive MBA

Learn How to Say No

UCLA's Derek Herrera

UCLA’s Derek Herrera

“To successfully juggle work, family and education, I would suggest that a student invests a significant amount of time identifying the priorities in their life, and using those priorities to guide their decision-making for time management.  Inherently, there will be a time when you tire of studying, conducting research, or writing papers. But, if you can recall how much of a priority it is to complete this degree, then it should help [you] to stay focused.

Additionally, this will also inform you when you should say no to an opportunity, which I have found to be incredibly challenging.  There are so many incredible opportunities and uses of time that it is impossible to say yes to all of them, so learning to say no to great opportunities is critical. In doing this, one should place serious intention to identify which of these pursuits will allow that individual to come closer to achieving their long-term goals.  Without clear goals and milestones of what one wants to achieve, knowing how and when to turn down fantastic opportunities becomes haphazard.” – Derek Herrera, UCLA, Anderson School of Management

Carve Out Time For Your Loved Ones – And Yourself

My best advice is to ensure you have a solid support system in place to help you through. It is a drain on your energy and your family will definitely feel the impacts of your lack of presence at times physically and mentally. Make sure your family and/or friends and support systems are ready to step up and help you. Recognize that you can’t do everything that you normally do during this time and accept help.

I would also recommend that you set aside specific time each week for your family time and personal time to get physical exercise and enjoy people and activities that re-energize you. If you don’t schedule this time and stick to it, it is easy to become completely out of balance.” – Stacey Mueller, Purdue University, Krannert School of Management

Be In The Moment 

“Good calendar planning — and trying to be present wherever you are at a particular time of the day.  If you are hanging out with your family, then be with them. If you are going to cram through a case, then do that.  Planning and execution is important.  So is the idea of balancing quality and quantity.” – Robert Ford, University of California-Berkeley, Haas School of Business 

“The time requirements can be a struggle. Having parameters with family and work for the additional time needs due to school is critical. Just as important is honoring those parameters. Building in time with my kids – when I could focus on being with them without being distracted by work or education – has been critical to creating a balance.” – Abhi Mehrotra, University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School 

Work As A Team

Veronica Carrera

Veronica Carrera

“There are times that you feel, there is no way I can do it all, but surprisingly you find a way to manage. Most importantly, you have to remember that you work in teams and this is so critical to your success. You share the workload and utilize people’s strengths to get things accomplished. This is why I mentioned that working well with groups is very important in the MBA and understanding this prepares you to be even more successful in life.” – Veronica Carrera, Cornell University, Johnson Graduate School of Management

“With respect to family and colleagues, it is a team effort. Include the family and colleagues when planning time to study and jointly celebrate each success whether passing an exam or finishing a project.” – Melinda Shockley, Boston University, Questrom School of Business

Set Priorities

“Something else that helped me was in the first semester of the MBA; we are assigned an executive coach to help us individually and as a team. Mary Tomaselli was my coach and she was wonderful.  She asked me to write down what my top three values in life are and to remember what I am not willing to compromise when it comes to these three things. One of them I knew was fitness. Even though it is easy to let this go, fitness is, in fact, what gives me mental and emotional strength. My spiritual practice is another one and family and friends are the most important. Understanding this, I took life day by day. The MBA at Cornell is every other weekend, and so on my weekends off I made sure to make time for the people and things I love.” – Veronica Carrera, Cornell University, Johnson Graduate School of Management

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