How to Balance School and Life

Achieving the proper balance in an MBA program can be challenging, because for the vast majority of students, going 100mph in at least two different directions at the same time is not a recipe for success. School, family obligations, your social life, and your career (if you’re in a professional MBA program) all require time, effort and juggling.

Know When to Say When
The first thing you need to do is set expectations before the MBA program begins, with yourself, with your family and friends, and with your employer if that applies. It isn’t just going to class, doing the reading, and taking tests: Team-based projects are an essential part of the W. P. Carey MBA, and your schedule needs to be flexible as possible to allow for meetings or calls with teammates. In order to devote time and attention to the things you need to accomplish, you may have to say no to some things you really want to do, like the tailgate party before the game or that spur-of-the-moment weekend out of town.

On the other hand, taking some time for yourself or your family is a great way to recharge and get away from the books for a while. In order to meet all your obligations, it’s key that you communicate to your spouse, your parents, your friends, your boss and co-workers when you’re available and when the MBA iyour top priority.

Time is of the Essence
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of personal productivity and time management systems – Getting Things Done, the Pomodoro Technique, helpful software and apps like Evernote and Remember the Milk – and they all address the same challenge: How can you do it all? Whichever system you prefer, it’s essential that you know when you need to work on your MBA and stick to that schedule. Maybe it’s as easy as a detailed Outlook calendar, or maybe you need to write it on paper to make it seem more permanent, but a good time management system will help you prioritize, start, and complete projects. It will also help you squeeze in the down time you’re going to need after a big project or exam.

Take a Breather
The benefits of even a little exercise can help you make it through a particularly trying day or project. At the very least, it’s a good idea to reserve a little time every day for a walk, jog, or bike ride. Maybe you already have a fitness regimen you rely on, and if so, that’s great. It may need to be altered a bit, but with the rigors of an MBA schedule, getting some exercise (and planning it as part of your schedule!)will help you focus and give you more energy for your MBA program.

Pass the Ball
From time to time, you will simply have to delegate some of your responsibilities. Someone may need to take the lead on a big project at work or your spouse might have to do more cleaning. Delegation can be a compromise in certain situations, but if you set the expectations early on, the people around you will understand what to expect. And delegation works both ways: If you have incredibly pressing family issues or can’t avoid going out of town for work, your MBA teammates can take up the slack. Remember: the MBA is truly a team effort.

By prioritizing your time, letting your family, co-workers, and friends know the demands of your schedule, and taking a little time to clear your head and get your blood flowing, you can manage an MBA, whether you’re going back to school full-time or fitting b-school around your already busy life.

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