Can You Get an MBA While Working Full Time?
The benefits of securing an MBA are both numerous and pronounced. But make no mistake, the road to any graduate degree in business is quite long and arduous. Even workaholics can easily overextend themselves in their pursuit of an MBA, ultimately paying the price in terms of extreme fatigue, poor health, and the loss of quality time with family and friends.
Despite the time-consuming challenges of seeking an MBA, it is certainly possible to work full-time while completing an MBA program. This is particularly true of graduate students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) Gary W. Rollins College of Business and other institutions that offer similar levels of flexibility and support.
Of course, balancing school with work and life is rarely easy and typically involves careful planning and constant negotiation. Read on for eight valuable tips that can help you earn your MBA while maintaining a happy and productive professional and personal life.
How to Have Work-Life Balance While Getting Your MBA
If you don’t want to become overwhelmed while working full time and earning your MBA, experts recommend that you:
Create a Study Place
No matter how big or small your household happens to be, living with other people (especially children!) can be a real challenge when it comes to completing academic work at home. Even if you live alone, establishing a designated study place is a great way to physically and psychologically separate your studies from the hustle and bustle of your daily life.
Your study place can be a room in your home or a relatively quiet public location such as a neighborhood coffee shop or library. In addition to low noise levels, MBA students with busy lives should seek out locations that are clean, organized, and comfortable. Ideal places of study are also typically painted and decorated in warm—rather than cold or harsh—color combinations.
Create a Schedule
It should be self-evident, but a pre-planned schedule is an absolute must for anyone who is facing significant time-management challenges. If your professional work hours are set, you should place them on the schedule first. Then, you must decide how much time you can realistically devote to studying and various personal and family activities.
As will be shown shortly, it is also vitally important to schedule appropriate time for sleep and self-care. Creating a viable schedule and sticking to it is particularly important for people who tend to procrastinate. To put it bluntly, pursuing an MBA as a full-time professional places time at such a high premium that procrastination become practically impossible.
Find Time for Exercise and Sleep
Two of the hardest daily activities to fit into your schedule are also two of the most important: exercise and sleep. Studies have shown that regular cardiovascular exercise not only boosts energy levels, mood, and overall health, but also engenders significant improvements in memory. When you’re hitting the books every day, can you really afford not to devote the recommended two-and-a-half hours of time per week to exercise?
It may be even more difficult to get the seven to nine hours of nightly sleep that experts recommend but setting aside adequate time for sleep is absolutely essential. In order to pay attention during class and capably learn during study time, you simply must be well rested and alert. If a good night’s sleep is impossible, consider taking power naps during the day.
Watch What You Eat
In addition to increasing the risk of anxiety, irritability, and sleep disturbances, poor eating habits have been clinically tied to mental concentration issues and lower grades in school. Avoid junk food whenever possible and gravitate toward healthy options such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
Other items to consider incorporating into your diet include salmon, walnuts and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to maximize brain function and stave off depression. MBA students who don’t have the time to access and prepare omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods may want to consider taking a daily fish oil supplement.
Know Your Limits and Leverage Your Abilities
By the time they are qualified to enter an MBA program, most people already have a relatively firm and specific understanding of their academic and professional strengths and weaknesses. For example, you may be able to ace an exam with limited studying time, but you may take longer to read textbook materials than fellow students.
Stop to assess your abilities and realize your limitations so you can plan an MBA path that makes the most sense for you. The MBA program at the UTC Gary W. Rollins College of Business gives students a great deal of flexibility in terms of academic pacing and the overall period of time that it will take to graduate. It also allows students to complete the entire MBA program online or choose a customized mix of distance learning and in-person courses.
Get Help and Support
Creating and employing effective networks of support are among the most important skills that a senior executive must master in order to find success in the business world. Learn to hone these skills while pursuing your MBA to make life just a little bit easier.
This might mean enlisting the help of your family or hiring a lawn care or housekeeping company to take a few household chores off of your plate. It might also mean alerting your workplace superiors to the unique demands of your MBA studies. In all cases, students should take full advantage of all that their MBA program has to offer by clearly communicating with fellow students as well as college professors and administrators.
Take Time for Free Time
Although it has become a bit of a cliché, self-care is supremely important, particularly for people who are striving to balance the official demands of work and school with the personal needs of family and friends. People who fail to carve out blocks of free time into their weekly schedule are bound to suffer considerable mental and physical repercussions.
It is also critical to recognize that your private mental and physical state is bound to affect all facets of your life. In other words, think twice before neglecting self-care in favor of spending every waking minute working, studying, and attending to household responsibilities. Your efforts are highly likely to backfire and cause damage in the very workplace, academic, and family environments that you are striving to optimize.
Choose the Right MBA Program
If you’re already in the full-time workforce and considering going back to school for an MBA, you are obviously focused on long-term rewards. While this is a trait that almost all successful people hold in common, you must ensure that your long-term focus doesn’t set you up for short-term failure.