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How To Maintain A Good Work-Life Balance During An Executive MBA

Finding a balance between study, work and personal life can seem like a tricky task during an Executive MBA. We spoke to two EMBA students who told us how they do it



Mon Apr 29 2019

For prospective EMBA students, balancing a degree with a job and personal lives can seem like a daunting prospect. Juggling large workloads both academically and professionally whilst also finding time for family and friends can seem like a near-impossible task.

With an average age of approximately 36, many students who begin an Executive MBA course have families, and are raising children and balancing important careers, making the transition even harder.

And yet, every year around the world students undertake the task and reap its rewards, building powerful networks, increasing salaries and even pivoting into new, higher roles.

So how can EMBA students maintain a good balance between study, work and personal life?

Finding the right EMBA program

Tom van Vliet knew what he was getting into when he began his Executive MBA in Sports Management at Maastricht School of Management (MSM) in the Netherlands.tom-msm

As an entrepreneur and freelancer, Tom was faced with an even more difficult task than most. “I did not have the privilege of doing it under my bosses time. When I did my education I did it in my own time and when I studied I was not getting paid,” he explains.

For many prospective EMBA students, this can be a major cause for concern. Finding the course that suits your own personal timetable is often the best course of action.

Tom says the super-flexible EMBA at MSM is designed to help students manage the pressures of work, life, and study. When students are unable to attend modules on campus, modules can be followed online, on a different date on the full-time MBA course, or at a partner location around the world.

The EMBA program consists of four modules spread throughout the year with three months between each. This gives students the opportunity to focus for one week on classes, with three months for assignments. Having a block of classes gives students the opportunity to detach from work for a week.

“Some schools have programs where you go to class every week one day for two years, but that wouldn’t have been possible for me,” Tom explains. “Instead, having eight-to-nine days of class every three months was perfect. In terms of planning, it was ideal for my home situation as well as managing expectations with work.”

Learning to prioritize

On any MBA degree, it is easy to get swept up in every task, particularly on Executive MBAs as most students are following their specific passions, whether this is as entrepreneurs or managers. Urs Egli’s EMBA experience at MSM taught him to prioritize his time effectively.


“I always have what I call the four squares,” he explains. “Important, not important, urgent, and not urgent. In the past, I was handling every task urgently; nowadays I focus on the important tasks that are urgent.”

“I also have a family and kids and they are my highest priority. I will not miss playing with my little ones because that’s important. It’s also urgent because they will grow. I only have the chance to play with my son as a one-and-a-half-year-old now!”

Having led the product development team at a skiwear company, Urs also chose Maastricht School of Management as it allowed him to specialize in sports management. It is one of only a few European universities to offer this specialization.

Urs now works as a managing director for Swiss Advance in Switzerland, a sustainable outdoor equipment company, and is taking his fresh approach to work-life balance into his new role.

“I focus on important things more than I did pre-EMBA,” he says “I’ve come to realize that I am only at my best when I am happy. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. You need to juggle and be smart about where you put your energy.”