Enrolling in an online MBA program affords you any number of benefits. For one, you’ll be able to expand your expertise and make yourself more marketable, without having to take time off from your career. As a distance learner, you’ll be collaborating with a diverse cohort of colleagues using the convenience of technology. You’ll even have the option of learning at your own pace.
However, convenience doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. To gain the most from these benefits, you must take ownership of your education. You must hold yourself accountable for meeting your deadlines, though you will be able to lean on the support of team members in tackling major assignments. Managing your time effectively while pursuing your MBA online will be critical to your academic success.
Nevertheless, only you can solve the problem of how to accomplish your educational goals within the constraints of your already busy schedule. How you manage your time as you work toward earning your advanced degree will affect your life at work as well as at home. Answering the time management challenges of the online MBA program will test your initiative, but it will also allow you to demonstrate the qualities that set business leaders apart.
Before you even begin your MBA studies, you should have a frank discussion with your family. You’ll want to talk about what your decision means for both yourself and them. Be clear about how much more personal space and time you anticipate needing – you may need to dedicate anywhere from 10-20 hours per week to your studies. Make a plan for how going back to school will shift responsibilities within your household. Give everyone a say and a role in how you all will support each other for the duration of your degree program. Make it your objective to emerge from this discussion with a plan.
Do Not Procrastinate
Make a study calendar and commit to it. Spend at least a few minutes each day reviewing the coming days and weeks and make adjustments to your schedule well in advance. If you spy a time crunch on the horizon, reach out to your instructors and team members as soon as possible. Don’t be shy about asking for advice in negotiating your due dates and deliverables. Never wait until the last minute, or let circumstances get so complicated they reach a crisis point, before asking for help. Except in case of emergencies, don’t make your problems their problems. That is, when requesting assistance, keep the focus on school, not work or family obligations competing for your time.
Working on a computer and working online means constantly fighting the temptation to take a social media break, download a podcast, or dive down a Google bunny trail. In his New York Times piece on quitting social media because your career may depend on it, Cal Newport describes himself as a “a millennial computer scientist” who believes that “a service designed to fragment my attention is as scary to me as the idea of smoking would be to an endurance athlete, and it should be to you if you’re serious about creating things that matter.” Newport’s position may seem extreme, but his basic point is worth considering. We have to manage our distractions because time is a limited resource . When you are a distance learner, your time online is not leisure time. Consider adding browser extensions or downloading apps — think of them as a suite of virtual executive tools — that will help you concentrate and keep better track of how you are using your time.
Do you make multiple backups of your work files across a range of devices? Do you help yourself remember important names, dates and other details by recording them in different formats? Technology is a wonder, and it’s often the key to your operating at peak efficiency. Until, of course, technology stops working. Don’t assume that technology will never fail you. Build fail-safes. Automate your system backups and schedule them to occur on a regular basis. If a reading, handout or other resource your instructor shared is of particular importance, consider printing out a copy. Use classic note-taking techniques, proven to be an aid to retaining information, so you can readily reference the most important items on your schedule regardless of whether you are close to your computer or not. If you are an auditory learner, make voice memos or set reminders on your smartphone, especially if it is synced to the computer on which you do school work.
Take Advantage of Opportunities
No matter how firm it is, a schedule still has many joints. Even if every hour in your calendar has been allocated to one task or another, the overall situation is one of flux. If you suddenly find yourself with free time, seize it. Even 10 to 15 minutes of waiting (for an oil change; at the dentist’s office; in the airport terminal) can be used for studying. Maximizing the value of your availability entails budgeting your free time. Become familiar with your circadian rhythms. Pay attention to the times of day and the surroundings that support your highest levels of productivity. If you know you aren’t a morning person, don’t try and force yourself to perform under sub-optimal conditions. Use that time instead for a needed break. Rest, recuperate and prepare yourself for those hours when you will really need to be at the top of your game.
Remember: You must manage your own time. Knowing who you are, and knowing what discipline works best for you, is paramount if you want to succeed, both as a graduate student and as a business professional. A smart approach to the online MBA experience is one that recognizes and leverages the multiple ways in which it boosts this self-awareness.
Learn more about how you can earn your MBA online in as few as 12 months from Baylor University.
Learn more about the Baylor online MBA program.
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