This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 9-December-2011 issue
Are you a Type-A personality focused on climbing the career ladder or getting top marks for your MBA? It’s destructive to obsess about your job (or your MBA for that matter), especially if other key areas of your life suffer such as your relationships and your health. Here are three tips to help you keep your passion under control:
- Take breaks. Force yourself to leave work or study during the day for a coffee, a run or a gym workout. Taking time to “defragment your mental hard drive” by doing something completely unrelated to work or your studies will help you get renewed focus, energy and motivation. It will also make you a more pleasant person to be around. Block out time in the evenings and on the weekends for other activities.
- Don’t bring work or studies home. With ubiquitous technology like smartphones and laptops, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate work, studies and home, and I’m no expert at getting this right. However, for your own sanity and those around you, try not to bring home your laptop. Leave files on your desk. If necessary, limit your email access to just the office or your business school, and don’t check them on your phone at home. Keep separate email accounts for home and work and MBA.
- Find a new hobby. The more you enjoy things outside of work (or your MBA), the less space these will take up in your life and the lower your chances of burnout.
Although it’s easier said than done, a valuable lesson I learnt from one of my more balanced MBA classmates was “Family first, then career, then MBA” in that order. If you put the MBA first ahead of the other two, you won’t have a family or career to salvage after the MBA is over. Is it worth it? In my experience as an MBA graduate since 2007, employers don’t usually ask what marks you got in your MBA (the exception being the leading management consulting firms like McKinsey). So it isn’t worth sacrificing family and career to get cum laude. Most employers only care that you got an MBA and that you got it at a good business school. Likewise, putting career ahead of family, will cost you your family. No matter how much money you earn or how high you move up the career ladder, if you’re alone when you get to the top, it isn’t worth it.
Keeping this long-term view in mind will help you get your priorities right. Good luck with getting the balance right. If you have any tips to help others with this issue, I’d love to hear from you.
Adapted from Harvard Business Review
15-Dec-2011 at 17:18
This is a very common challenge part time MBA students sit with. If you have a young family, it makes it even more difficult. It is very very important that your spouse or partner is part of that journey. Get them involved in as much activities related to your work or MBA so they don’t feel left out. Show as often as you can that you appreciate them picking up the slack at home. Even though your job is a higher priority than the MBA, learn to say no when it gets too much. Usually your company would claim to be supportive of your career growth and part of this is to encourage a balanced lifestyle. If they don’t then maybe it’s time to start looking for a company that does not expect you to by default work 200 hours a month and still lead a balanced lifestyle. When spending time with your family, quality means more than quantity. It doesn’t help you spend the whole weekend with them, but your mind is elsewhere. Rather make it clear that for 3-5 hours of your Saturday or Sunday you will be studying and the rest is focused 100% on them doing things they love doing with you. They will then look forward more to the time spent together. Don’t underestimate how much time and hard work is needed to get through the MBA, so be realistic about what time you are going to spend with your family or any additional work. It’s hard work, but it’s possible.