One of the greatest advantages of earning an MBA online is the flexibility that it offers. For working professionals, the option to study when and where it’s convenient helps make it possible to go to school without leaving a job. Mastering the art of balancing work and school doesn’t happen as soon as you enroll, however. It takes patience, thoughtful planning and dedication to build up the solid time-management skills that will serve you throughout your program—and beyond.
Below, we’ve put together some of the most helpful tips to jump-start the process of balancing your career with an MBA program.
The Typical Day
The most successful online students find a balance between work and school by creating a defined schedule and carefully budgeting their time. This means including enough time for work, studies, personal activities and rest. It also means establishing clear boundaries between each aspect of your life in order to give everything the time and focus that it deserves. In other words, if you set aside time for reading and study after work, you shouldn’t also attempt to answer work emails during this time, just as you shouldn’t try to participate in class discussions in the online course module while you’re in a meeting.
In the infographic below, we’ve outlined a daily schedule for the “typical” online MBA student at CSUMB. It’s a busy day, but with clearly defined boundaries between each task, it’s easy to see what needs to be accomplished, and to avoid getting overwhelmed.
We recommend not only scheduling in a little downtime each day—you need to rest or you’ll risk burning out—but also finding pockets of time where you can work on some tasks throughout the day. This can help you manage your priorities and avoid trying to accomplish everything at once. For instance, using your commute time and lunch breaks to check in on class discussions, complete quizzes or work on readings can help you stay on top of your assignments. And by not waiting until after your work day to try to do everything, you can avoid exhausting yourself with late nights.
Creating a time budget does require that you have a realistic idea of how much time things will take. When you first begin your program, you may wish to schedule longer time blocks than you think you might need for each task, until you get a better sense of your own pace.
Making It Work
When you enroll in an online MBA program, one of the first things you should do is invest in a calendar that you will actually use. Whether you opt for an electronic version or an old-fashioned paper agenda, your calendar will be your best friend when it comes to balancing all your responsibilities. Take time each week to plan out your days, making note of key assignments and deadlines. Depending on your process and how you visualize things best, you might consider color coding your plans, using a bullet journal or using other organizational techniques to delineate school, work and personal responsibilities.
Other tips for making it work:
- Make use of alarms and reminders to stay on track. By setting timers, you can not only avoid missing deadlines, but you can also get a better idea of how long it takes to get things done
- Make lists. By organizing your daily tasks into lists, you’ll be less likely to forget what needs to be done
- Save time where you can. Try meal planning for example, and cook extra each night to bring for lunch the next day so you won’t have to spend time making lunch or going to get food
- Organize yourself each night. Before bed, choose your clothing for the next day, pack your bag and put it in a set place. That way, you can hit the ground running in the morning
- Ask for help. Talk with your family about the demands on your time, and ask for a helping hand when you need it. If you can, consider calling on extended family or even hiring others to offload some of your day-to-day responsibilities
Set Realistic Expectations
Working while earning an MBA does place some intense demands on your schedule, and you need to learn to set boundaries—and yes, make some sacrifices. Despite this, remember that it is still vital to set aside some time for self-care. Not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, and skipping exercise and relaxation are more likely to make you ill, depressed or overwhelmed.
For some, the very first task of their MBA program is finding a way to budget their time to meet all their responsibilities. Keep in mind that an MBA program is a short-term endeavor, and you are working toward a long-term goal. Keeping your goals in mind can help you stay focused and successfully manage all your responsibilities.
To take the first step toward your long-term career goals, learn more about CSUMB’s Online MBA program.