Join us as we explore the battle against busyness and ways to bring balance back to our lives. Emory University's Goizueta Business School’s Marina Cooley discusses the history of work/life balance, factors that have pushed us into overdrive, and steps that individuals and institutions can take to even the scale.
Marina Cooley is an assistant professor in the practice of Marketing at Goizueta Business School. Prior to joining Goizueta, Marina spent more than 15 years in strategic marketing roles at Coca-Cola and Lavva, and served as a management consult at IBM. A storyteller at heart, she has been featured in the New York Times and Yahoo Finance - and honored as one of Poets & Quants 40-under-40 Best MBA professors. Currently, she teaches a class on personal development to more than 800 undergraduate students each year, as well as a seminar on Life Design to MBA students.
The Overwhelming Nature of Busyness
In researching busyness, Marina Cooley has found data showing an increase in leisure time in America. However, this data can be misleading and is only accurate when you look at data collectively. There is a large class of underemployed individuals who have lots of “leisure time” but may spend much of this time worrying about basic needs. Most highly educated individuals with well-paying jobs have little leisure time due to overcommitment. Marina shares that the discussion today will mostly focus on this "Harried Leisure Class” which is privileged but faces struggles with time management.
Factors Contributing to Busyness
Marina identifies five key explanations for busyness: workism, parenting as a verb, the cult of self-improvement, the trend of side hustles, and the impact of social media. Acknowledging the societal privilege to address the issue of busyness, Marina discusses historical events that shaped the modern work landscape, such as the introduction of factory work hours, the eight-hour workday, the postwar era's focus on hobbies, and the introduction of massive corporate downsizing. She highlights the pivotal moment in the 1970s when a proposed bill for subsidized child care faced opposition, shaping the current struggle of parents to balance work and family responsibilities.
Marina's Personal Battle Against Busyness
Marina shares personal experiences, illustrating the catch-22 of disposable income, where the pursuit of “more” leads to overcommitment and self-induced stress. Reflecting on her own journey, she emphasizes the need to align time spent with personal values, recognizing the negative impact of overcommitment on parenting and overall well-being.
The Importance of Balance and Leisure
As a way to address systemic changes to support work-life balance, Marina advocates for subsidized child care, experimenting with shorter workweeks, creating mandatory periods of corporate email shutoff, and exploring workplace sabbaticals. She recognizes the evolving nature of work arrangements, citing the acceptance of hybrid work as a positive shift.
Teaching A Balanced Life
Marina's class at Goizueta Business School teaches personal development as the key focus. The innovative zero-lecture strategy and practical exercises equip students with tools to understand and enhance their time management skills, encouraging a mindset shift towards valuing leisure for its intrinsic worth. Marina encourages the cultivation of joy through deliberate planning, challenging the cultural tendency to view leisure as something to be earned.
Personal Strategies for Finding Joy
As she reflects on the pursuit of joy, Marina highlights the role of planning in creating uninterrupted leisure time. She encourages listeners to be mindful of their time choices, emphasizing the privilege of deciding how time is spent. Marina reflects on the power of saying no and gives a toast to a less harried and more balanced new year.
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