Carolina on My Mind: #WorkLifeBalance

Posted on January 3, 2014

Finding Work-Life Balance

This is another entry in Rafael Baptista’s ongoing column, “Carolina on My Mind.” Rafael is a first year student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Masters of Public Administration program. 

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uncI recently completed my first semester in the UNC MPA program. This semester included many highs and, of course, some lows. These highs and lows were often directly related to my ability to achieve (or not) a work-life balance.  Reflecting on recent EGLG twittersations about work-life balance, I am dedicating this post to my quest for work-life balance in graduate school.

A difficult part of graduate school is the lack of stability in your schedule. As a graduate student, you have a lot of flexibility in your schedule, so you have a significant amount of responsibility to properly manage your time. Although that creates opportunities for great work-life balance, it also creates opportunities to not complete what needs to be done.

optional readingI had the freedom to create my own schedule that would allow me to complete my research assistant work, perform well academically, and take care of my personal needs. At the beginning of the semester it was relatively easy to achieve this balance since there were limited projects and assignments. I was able to do most of what I wanted: I was even able to do all the recommended (but optional) readings for every class session. But as the semester progressed and assignments became more frequent and time-consuming, some sleepless nights occurred and not all assignments were completed to my satisfaction.

portland-timbers-logoUnderstanding that any form of success would require me to make difficult decisions and give up some activities that I enjoy, I realized that I needed to create a list of priorities. I hoped that this list would allow me to cultivate better time management. School work, non-academic work, spending time with those important to me, exercise, church, and somewhat regularly home cooked meals made the priority list. Regularly watching Oregon Ducks football and Portland Timbers soccer did not make the cut. Unfortunately, pleasure reading and optional class readings were also eliminated. With that priority list as a guide, I was able to achieve some semblance of work-life balance. While the recommended readings were an academic sacrifice, I still finished the semester with grades I was satisfied with and more importantly, strong emotional, mental, and physical health. Most importantly, that happiness and excitement that I had at the beginning of the semester was still present at the end of the semester.

By no means have I fully achieved work-life balance. As I go through the program, the challenges will become more difficult and thus require increasingly difficult solutions. Those challenges, however, will not stop at graduation, as a career in local government will provide even stronger demands, challenges, and responsibilities. Graduate school, despite its ever-growing list of responsibilities and challenges, is a training ground for the real battle ahead. Let me know your experiences with #Worklifebalance on Twittter@RafaelBaptista5

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