How Can Manage an MBA While Working?

You work full time. You're constantly on the road for business. You want to make sure you have plenty of time for family, friends and fun. Wondering how in the world you can fit an MBA into your life?

How Can Manage an MBA While Working?
First, it's important to realize that an online MBA requires the same time commitment as a traditional MBA - the course structure and work load are very similar. But the big difference is, with online study, you have much more flexibility to control your study time, and you don’t need to give up your job to do it. The opportunity cost of earning your degree is minimized.

How much time does it take? 
I am currently a student enrolled in the Jack Welch MBA program, which recommends allowing 15-20 hours of study time per week per course. It also varies depending on the course. As a marketing professional, I find the Global Marketing course is a breeze. When I decided to use my final assignment to build a marketing plan for my client, the assignment doubled as my professional work and allowed me to write a very high quality proposal. On the other hand, I spend more time and effort in finance related courses, a subject that I have less experience in.

Time requirements also vary depending on the week. Most courses have three assignments -- in weeks 3, 6 and 10 -- during the 10-week period, but other courses require five assignments every other week. I usually spread out the time to write the assignments so my weeks are balanced.

How can you find time to study?  
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get so much more done than others? Have you also noticed that you always find time to do the things you really want? The rule is that if you want something badly enough, you will find time to do it.

During our online and offline networking sessions with students, the topic of time management always comes up. So I want to share a few quick “secrets” on how students with different lifestyles manage their time:
  • Early birds. These students rise in the early morning, usually around 5 am, and study for 2-3 hours before going to work. My inspirational friend Heidi Boyd gets hours of work done before most people get up. Some students choose to beat the traffic and arrive at the office early to study for a couple of hours before everyone else shows up. An early bird approach can help you sneak in 10-15 hours a week for study before you even start work.
  • Night owls. This is me and many others. My kids go to bed at 8:30pm, so between 8:30 and 11:30pm, I have 3 solid hours to work on my MBA. I can easily get 15 hours of work done a week during this pocket of time.
  • Hummingbirds. These students are ready for action both early and late, finding blocks of time in between. My genius classmate Brian Flach writes his class discussion posts during lunch time. This allows him to get at least 5 hours a week of coursework done without sacrificing mornings or evenings.
  • Weekenders. Most of us have control over the weekend. I study anywhere between 4 to 12 hours depending on whether it is assignment week or not, but I always try to balance out the weekend by spending quality time with family and friends.
  • Road warriors. For those who travel a lot, like my classmates and fellow student advisory board members Kathleen Thompson and Andy Fraser, loading textbooks onto an iPad or Kindle is a must. They also read or write while waiting at the airport or in flight, accomplishing 5-10 hours of MBA study a week, no matter where in the world they are. Both Kathleen and Andy are high achievers at work and have earned big promotions since starting the Jack Welch MBA program.
Through these strategies, you can quickly surface 20-30 hours of study time even during a busy week. Of course, you will have to miss a lot TV, but I can tell you living without TV is a very liberating experience. I have to watch TV for work, but I limit that time to a minimum.

On improving efficiency at work 
One more bonus point on how to improve productivity. In their best-selling book “The One Thing”, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan reveal how multitasking at work slows things down. On the low end, we lose 28% of our work day by frantically switching among work, emails and phone calls -- that's more than a day per week. With more singular focus, you can better manage your time at work, and net one bonus day every week. And that's really all the time you need to fit in your MBA.