Learning to Prioritize

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

As a part-time MBA student, I am often asked “How do you do it all? With work, school, family, and life in general how do you manage?” The answer is that I don’t do it all. Nobody does. There is no such thing as work/life balance where every day consists of equal time spent with family, at school, and at work. The truth is that nobody can do everything with limited resources, and so we each make choices about our priorities. Sometimes we feel guilty about the choices we’ve made, but knowing our priorities can help us to get rid of the guilt.

It’s important to start by knowing yourself and knowing your priorities. Creating a written list of your priorities and referring to it each time you are asked to spend time doing something can help you decide. If you don’t know what your priorities are yet, the Graduate Business Career Center can walk you through an exercise to identify and document them. If you are making decisions according to your priority list and still experiencing feelings of guilt, two things could be happening:

  • You have too many priorities, and it’s time to remove the lowest one from your list altogether.
  • Your priorities have changed, and it’s time to reassess and create a new list.

Many students find that when they begin the MBA program they need to choose to do fewer activities outside of school. This is part of the choice to pursue an MBA, and it’s only temporary. Other students find that as they progress in the program they want to have children or spend more time with their children. Again, this is a choice and may mean taking fewer classes or bringing your reading for the week to the gym in order to study and ride the stationary bike at the same time.

I used to feel guilty practically all the time. I felt as though too many things were happening to me and I was always letting someone down. Now that I’ve learned to prioritize and to say “no” to some things altogether, the guilty feelings have decreased in frequency and intensity. I understand that I can be a straight “A” student and have dinner on the table at 5:30 and volunteer each weekend and improve my tap dancing skills and look like I’ve just stepped out of a magazine. I just can’t do it all at once. I am in control of my own work/school/life choices and the choices I make are in alignment with my values. I don’t have time for an MBA – I make time!