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Time-Management Skills for Online MBA Students

08 Sep
Woman checking time on wristwatch while working on her laptop in the cafe.

The business world can be as challenging as it is rewarding. College graduates hope their newly earned bachelor’s degrees will be stepping stones to long and lucrative careers, but what transpires after graduation day doesn’t always meet expectations. That’s why those who focus on ambitious goal-setting turn to Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs to gain an edge over the competition.

The long-term rewards are considerable, as MBA graduates can earn as much as 42% more than their counterparts who have only bachelor’s degrees.1 However, the time commitment involved in earning such a high-level degree can be challenging when you're working to support yourself and perhaps a family while balancing your life and education. Time management and work-life balance are vital to your success as an online MBA student, so here are some self-care tools that can help you balance work and life with earning an MBA online.

The Importance of Work-Life Balance

Burnout. It’s a feature in nearly every article addressing work-life balance and students under pressure. Studies show that more than half of students experience academic burnout–”a psychological syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment that occurs as a response to emotional and interpersonal stressors”2–and that addressing wellness could significantly reduce it.3

Carrying the course load of an advanced degree program, coupled with the demands of work and your personal life, can lead to mental, emotional and physical exhaustion. Burnout not only detracts from your academic performance but it takes a toll on your overall quality of life. To succeed, you need to balance your academic goal-setting with prioritizing your mental health.

Ways to Balance Work, Life and Your Online MBA Program

Balance looks different for everyone. For some graduate students, it's quiet time away from people to enjoy the silence. For others, it means unwinding with family and friends over a pleasant dinner. The key is being honest about what balance means to you and building it into your life. To get started, consider the following tips.

Practice Achievable Goal-Setting

Goal-setting will be the compass that guides you through your MBA program. However, setting unrealistic goals can overwhelm you. Consider the oft-quoted idiom about devouring a large animal: You do it one bite at a time. The same applies when you’re getting your online MBA. You don’t want to exhaust yourself with goal-setting that's just unreasonable. Consider the following goals:

  • Study 12 hours every day
  • Complete all of the semester's work before midterms
  • Get perfect grades in every class
  • Work out daily
  • Get eight hours of sleep every night

These ambitious goals are likely to prove untenable in only a few weeks. Instead, consider the achievable alternatives:

  • Complete weekly readings on time
  • Complete tasks and assignments a day or two before their due dates
  • Maintain a certain GPA throughout the program
  • Get regular cardiovascular exercise
  • Get enough sleep to ensure your well-being and reduce stress

When you opt for achievable goal-setting and careful planning, you maintain your ambitions without setting yourself up for burnout.

Embrace Prioritization Techniques

Tackling a full course load at school, a full- or part-time job and your day-to-day responsibilities can be challenging. It takes self-discipline to decide what to address when. Prioritizing your tasks will help you stay on top of your to-do list and reduce your stress.

Consider using the Eisenhower Matrix when balancing obligations from multiple parts of your life.4 This prioritization tool helps you categorize your tasks into four quadrants and determine how much time you need for them:

  1. Urgent and important: These critical tasks–for example, putting out a fire in your kitchen–require your complete attention and must be done first
  2. Important but not urgent: These tasks, such as completing routine chores or planning long-term projects, have set dates before they become urgent
  3. Urgent but not important: These items may need fast attention but they’re unlikely to require your specific skill set, so they’re prime candidates for prioritization and task delegation; reassign them to someone who can complete them so you can focus on what's most important
  4. Neither urgent nor important: These tasks, such as scrolling through social media, should be minimized, as they offer little value and can divert your energies from more meaningful activities

Whether you apply the Eisenhower Matrix or another prioritization technique, using your time wisely throughout business school will keep you from stressing out over what to do from moment to moment.

Enhance Stress Management Through Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness means different things to different practitioners, but generally, it's considered a mental state of nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. This means you're fully engaged in your current experience without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

While this may sound like something you’d hear in a yoga class instead of an MBA program, research shows that practicing mindfulness reduces stress.5 It also reduces burnout,6 and it’s so effective that it benefits not only students but working professionals in academia.7

You can practice mindfulness by:

  • Engaging in breathing meditation
  • Taking peaceful walks without your phone
  • Completing mental body scans
  • Closing your eyes and listening to music without distractions
  • Spending time on focused journaling

Mindfulness practices are essential for stress management: Incorporating them into your daily routine will help you remain focused, clear-minded and resilient throughout your online MBA program.

Nurture Your Own Approach to Stress Management

The above recommendations for self-care are effective ways to manage stress and reach your goals while avoiding burnout, but they’re not the only answers. During your time as an MBA student, you’ll encounter different challenges and you’ll have your own unique responses to them.

For some, that may mean taking breaks to watch their favorite TV shows and turning off their brains (so to speak) for a little while. For others, it may mean exercising to sweat out the stress or spending quality time with friends. Whatever your preferred method may be, it’s imperative that you find and reinforce good habits and healthy ways to cope with the challenges of balancing life, work and school.

Achieve More: Work-Life Balance and a Prestigious Degree

Capitalize on the many benefits of online education. William & Mary’s Online MBA program will prepare you to lead in today’s challenging, rapidly changing business environment. The rigorous curriculum centers on Wicked Problems: complex issues with no easy solutions. As you study on your own schedule, you'll sharpen your design thinking and problem-solving skills in order to apply them successfully in fast-paced business environments. Engage with a support network of world-class faculty and peers through our innovative learning platform, and expand your network to include accomplished colleagues online and around the world.

To learn more about how the Raymond A. Mason School of Business can prepare you for executive-level leadership roles, schedule an appointment with an admissions outreach advisor today.

  1. Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from fortune.com/education/articles/new-mba-grads-at-mckinsey-bcg-bain-can-now-land-base-salaries-of-nearly-200k
  2. Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6852272/
  3. Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10163855
  4. Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix
  5. Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation
  6. Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from ssbfnet.com/ojs/index.php/ijrbs/article/view/820/643
  7. Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8314311