5 Steps to “Bschool-Work-Life” Balance

Having advised hundreds of successful applicants to part-time and executive MBA programs worldwide, The MBA Exchange is pleased to share some valuable, practical advice from a fellow expert in this arena. About the author: Rebecca Lindegren is the community relations manager for MBA@UNC, an online Executive MBA program specializing in leadership. In addition to higher ed, she is passionate about content and brand marketing, cycling and skiing. Follow her on twitter.

According to a 2014 Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business survey, over 60 percent of MBA students are enrolled in part-time programs. Students in part-time programs, including evening, weekend, executive, and online MBA programs, benefit from the opportunity to continue working and earning income, rather than losing up to $350,000 in tuition, fees and lost income associated with a full-time program. However, one must also consider the challenges inherent in all part-time MBA programs before enrolling. You should expect to complete the degree in an average of three years (longer than the usual two for full-time programs), give up your evenings and weekends to study, and juggle school, work and personal obligations.

While achieving a school-work-life-balance can be difficult, it is the ultimate key to success for many students. Here are five tips to help you maintain a healthy balance throughout a part-time MBA program.

1. Manage Your Expectations. Even before beginning a part-time MBA program, it is important to recognize that earning an MBA is meant to be a challenging endeavor. No one should expect to sail through a program without experiencing some stress and frustration or making sacrifices in other areas of life to accommodate the workload. Accepting that there will inevitably be some tough times can help alleviate the pressure to be a “perfect” student.

2. Communicate Early, Communicate Often. Don’t forget that the changes you are making to attend a part-time MBA program will affect other important people in your personal and professional life. It’s critical to have an open and honest conversation about these changes before beginning the program and periodically throughout. Discuss how your time and availability will change with your supervisor, co-workers and subordinates before you begin a part-time MBA program. Set up meetings with key people in your organization to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of your new schedule.

3. Start Slow. Incorporate school into your schedule slowly when you begin a part-time MBA program. Before enrolling for your first semester, do research to understand the typical progression of classes and consider taking one less class than the average workload. If you do not wish to take fewer classes, another tactic for easing into a new MBA program is to first take foundational courses that will prepare you for more challenging and rigorous classes later on in the program.

4. Get Organized. Myriad organizational tools are available to help you stay on top of work and school assignments, as well as personal obligations. Do your research and determine the tool or set of tools you can use to stay organized. In addition to spreadsheets and online calendars, Forbes recommends web and mobile apps that keep track of to-do lists, manage digital distractions, and enable efficient note taking.

5. Stay Healthy, Stay Sane. Although balancing school with work and other life obligations will be challenging, it’s critical to carve out time to take care of yourself. For example, taking time to exercise will not only allow for much-needed personal time, but also relieve stress and improve learning by enhancing concentration and attention skills. Similarly, maintaining a healthy diet and getting adequate sleep will help you perform at a consistently high level. To keep everything in perspective, make time for family, friends and other personal networks that can provide support as you work through the program.

The benefits of a part-time MBA make these types of programs attractive to many students who prefer not to leave their jobs to earn an MBA and advance their careers. However, the commitments associated with any degree program—even part-time—will change the amount of time and energy you are able to devote to your job and personal life. By entering a part-time MBA program fully aware of the challenges of balancing school, work, and life and keeping these tips in mind, you can set yourself up for a successful experience.