How to maintain balance as a WEMBA student at Goizueta

As our lives get busier, “balance” feels ever more elusive. As I enrolled in Goizueta’s WEMBA program, I thought a lot about how I would juggle it all and still maintain some balance in my life. What I’ve found is that, largely, balance is an illusion. How to maintain sanity might be a better question. But, in truth, we are incredibly adaptable and find ways to accomplish what is put before us. That being said, here are some ways to make it a little easier:

Prioritize. Take time to think about your top priorities going into the program. The exercise provided clarity between my husband and me that we could refer to and adjust as the pace of the program accelerated. My list includes learning, health, networking, marriage and family. A lot of things that were important to me before starting school didn’t make the list. It’s not static, but the structure has been an anchor.

Let go. While I expected to be uncomfortable, I was not prepared for the existential unease I would experience alongside the academic discomfort. Push through it — after the first two terms, I’ve stopped fighting it and am learning so much about myself. Everyone is uncomfortable, none of us are in control, and that shared experience is worth engaging in. 

Get organized. Keeping myself organized has been a lifesaver as well as a timesaver. On Sundays, I map out upcoming assignments and estimate the number of individual hours and group hours it will take to complete them. It never works out exactly as I plan, but it provides an outline for when to get things done. Finding a system that works for you minimizes the panic of scrambling the night before. A general rule of thumb: It will take longer than you estimate (and if it takes less time, you can nap).

Identify the sacred. Find something completely outside school or your other obligations that is just for you. Whether it’s meditation, church, dinner with friends, a walk in the park, etc. It can all feel like a tornado that sucks your energy and leaves you depleted. Hold onto something that reconnects you to yourself. I didn’t expect that I would be able read for pleasure when I started the program, but it has been crucial for me to build in 30 minutes of nonschool reading before I go to sleep. It helps turn off my brain and transports me to a more relaxing place where balance feels possible.

Have fun. Truly, WEMBA is FUN. It is a privilege to be back in a classroom learning from terrific professors and incredibly smart and talented classmates. Go out with your classmates, engage even when it’s uncomfortable or silly, make new friends. Be present and allow yourself to enjoy it. As a cohort, we are in this together and that camaraderie provides support when the other stuff gets hard. The program goes incredibly quickly; while it’s happening, go “all-in.”

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Claire Hennessey

Claire Hennessey is a 19WEMBA student and Director of Foundation Relations at Emory University. With over 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector, she is now excitedly learning all about business.

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