Part-time MBA? Full-time job? No sweat!

It’s been two years into my candidacy as an MBA over at Santa Clara University and, over that time, I’ve been asked by several people how I balance a full-time job, a part-time education and a mid-20’s social life. The usual answer is “poorly” or “terribly”, but that doesn’t help those who are trying to figure out if it’s the right path for them. First things first though, here’s a brief moment of “fud” (i.e. fear, uncertainty and doubt) for those would-be-MBA’ers:

  • You’re going to lose track of one or more friends.
  • Over the course of the candidacy, you’re going to let down your family in some way.
  • Over the course of the candidacy, you’re going to let down your friends in some way.
  • Over the course of the candidacy, you’re going to let down your co-workers in some way.
  • You’ll have less patience with people and it’ll show.
  • You’ll have to either forego a healthy sleep schedule, social life or both.

I’m not trying to scare you away from it; its just important to know what to expect after making the decision to dedicate a big part of your life for the next 3 or so years. Now with that out of the way, let’s get to the real meat and potatoes. I think its pretty manageable if you take the extra onus to schedule and plan your time accordingly and stick to it. The problem is that most, including myself, don’t really understand how to do it until about a year or so of being in the program. So, here’s a little advice that’ll help avoid any or all of those “fud” points from the start:

Before the Quarter Starts

  1. Open up a calendar and notebook.
  2. In the calendar, write down the dates for every homework assignment and project due as well as test dates across every class you’re taking.
  3. With your notebook, write down a list of things you’re looking to accomplish at work AND life over the next 3-6 months, prioritize them and offer a very general time period as to when you think they’ll get accomplish.
  4. Cross-reference with the list back to your calendar and see how that’ll look.
  5. Take out half or more of the things you’d like to get accomplished at work and life. Put it in a backlog. You’re going to go crazy if you try to get everything accomplished.
  6. Inform your manager of time periods of when school work is going to be hectic over the next quarter. This’ll help manage expectations in terms of work.

During the Quarter

  1. Treat free time as an opportunity to actually get a head-start on school work due 2 weeks to a month ahead of time. This’ll help make those expected hectic periods a whole lot more manageable.
  2. Try to do a small portion of reading or homework for ½ – 1 hour everyday.
  3. Take every opportunity to exercise even if it means not hanging out with friends. This’ll really help keep your mind fresh.
  4. Be strict in allocating at least 7 hours of sleep a day.
  5. A week before any hectic period, inform your family, friends and manager that you’re not going to be available through a simple e-mail or two.
  6. Make plans to go out for a fully weekend day with friends or a significant other after each hectic period.

After Each Quarter

  1. Go on a small vacation (i.e. a long weekend trip) with the people closest to you.

Do this every quarter. It may sound crazy, but its tried and true. If you do even half of these things, it’s going to go a long way to make your life a whole lot easier to handle over your time at the institution. Oh, and one other thing: always remind yourself why you’re in the program (i.e. what you’re trying to get out of it). It’s a lot of money, work and time out of your life and doing it without a rhyme and reason is a recipe for disaster. So, make sure you know!

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