The growing number of women entering the workforce, furthering their education, and moving up into leadership positions in their career has started a conversation about whether or not it is possible to obtain work-life balance. And — if it is possible — how to maintain it.
Work-life balance is never perfectly obtainable for anyone. It is an ever-changing balancing act and requires constant adapting and adjusting. As women navigate work responsibilities, family life, social life, and schoolwork, priorities are constantly changing. There are, however, ways to better prioritize your obligations and take a bit of the pressure off.
Four current and former MBA students came together to share their thoughts on achieving balance: Elizabeth Sexton, Executive MBA Class of 2016; Katrina Holt, Executive MBA Class of 2017; Julieann Selden, current Professional MBA student; and Bethany O’Neil, current MBA Online student. These four women come from a wide range of professions, family structures, and personal backgrounds. Here’s how they balanced family, work, and a David Eccles School of Business MBA.
1. Minimalize your life
It is not possible to give 100 percent to all aspects of your life at once, but some have found it helpful to cut out small and unnecessary tasks, allowing for more time to focus on more vital things that require your attention.
For Executive MBA alumna Elizabeth Sexton, this meant cutting out something as simple as picking up groceries, which was one less thing she had to worry about during the week.
“You learn how to delegate, something that I struggled with coming into my MBA,” Sexton said. “I would submit my Amazon dry goods order on Friday before I got to class, and I had Winder Dairy deliver certain things. You become very methodical about how you use your time and whether or not this is a good use of your time. Two years in, I still don’t grocery shop.”
For some women, it can be difficult to rely on their support system for things that are generally considered their responsibility. But in order to gain balance in other areas of your life, Sexton found that it takes reliance on others.
“It was a real shift for me; I have never had others that I leaned on,” Sexton said. “I learned how to do that through the MBA program.”
2. Be purposeful with your time
For busy, professional women, there may be times when you are only able to spend a few minutes with your family and friends or working on work projects or homework assignments. It is important to be purposeful about this time and make free time when you can. For Executive MBA alumna Katrina Holt, this meant setting aside time for her family.
“I have two young children, so at night and on the weekends, I would have to purposefully plan out my time to ensure that I was spending quality time with them whenever possible,” Holt said. “This meant I was often doing homework early in the morning or at night after they had gone to bed. Sometimes my son and I would sit and do homework together, which still felt like quality time.”
There are opportunities to optimize your downtime throughout your day, including listening to audiobooks, podcasts, or textbooks at the gym, checking in on kids or other family members during lunch, or even setting aside designated time during the week for hobbies, breaks, and things you personally enjoy.
3. Find flexibility where you can
Having flexibility in your work, school, or home life can make it easier to achieve your goals and accomplish more in all aspects of your life. This can be done in your professional life by negotiating for a more flexible schedule or remote work options. For graduate business studies, many programs allow for classes, team meetings, and more to be completed online.
For Bethany O’Neil, a current MBA Online student, taking online courses allowed her to balance her job and coursework without having to come to campus.
“I really like being able to do my coursework from home,” O’Neil said. “I have a demanding job, so the flexibility in my schedule was really nice. I would just wake up in mornings, do some studying before I went to work, and do a little bit when I got home.”
4. Confidence is key
Having confidence in yourself and your achievements can help you push yourself to achieve more and have better control over your schedule.
For Julieann Selden, a current Professional MBA student, she found that confidence helped her to know how she could take on more responsibilities and still handle her schedule.
“Believe in yourself and reach for things that you might be scared of,” Selden said. “I think that’s been a big thing for me. I find myself doubting I can take things on before I ever give myself a chance to try it, and I’ve recently reached for higher goals, applied for jobs that I wasn’t sure I’d get an interview for, and taken on an extra class when I thought I’m already pretty busy.”
Reaching higher goals and striving for success has given her confidence that she can handle a busier schedule and achieve more professionally.
“I found that I’ve been happier, and the more I reach, the better I feel,” Selden said. “And of course, you have to know your limits, but I think I was limiting myself before I hit those limits. And for me, I have been able to reach farther.”