The Never Ending Art of Work-Life Balance

A philosophy professor places a large mason jar on the desk in front of his class and proceeds to fill the jar to the top with as many large rocks that will possibly fit. He then asks the class, “Is the jar full?” Some students answered yes, some answered no. It wasn’t full. So he continued to fill the jar with smaller rocks and then asks the class again, “Is the jar full now?” Again, the answer was no. So the philosophy professor adds sand to the jar and asks the question again. As before, the answer is no. This time he adds water to the jar and then asked his students:

“What is the moral of this story?”

“There’s always room for more,” one student cleverly commented. And while it was a good answer, it was incorrect.

“No,” the professor responded, “the moral of this story is that you should always put your big rocks in first or they will never fit.”

As I was sitting in this months Coffee with Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS) series titled, Work-Life Balance, this was my first time hearing about the Rocks, Pebbles and Sand Analogy for Time Management, and it really got me thinking. Throughout my undergraduate career, things came easy to me. I never had to use a planner. I never struggled to juggle, work, my campus leadership positions, class and friends. I had a strange gift of effortlessly making everything fit. Going into my third year of graduate school, lets just say that this is no longer the case.  By the end of the week, something, or someone, always gets left out of the equation. After hearing the stories of Women, at various stages of their careers, work and life is an equation that you are always trying to balance. An equation that can sometimes only become  harder once you decided to build a family in a workforce that tells women that children will only hinder their career.

My take away from this session, you can have it all. More importantly, my “all” may look different from  the next person’s “all” and that is okay. For some people, their family was their big rock, which meant home time was strictly family time, at least until the kids, and spouse, were asleep and if additional work needed to be done, then this was the time to do it. For others, that big rock was running, and making sure their was always sufficient time to get a decent long-distance run in. And for a few, that big rock was work. Sometimes, we may have deadlines, emergencies, or fellowships due that require time away from the “big rocks”. Whatever the case may be, the important thing is recognizing that you are putting the things that give you the most joy in life first.