MBA programmes are innovating and evolving in response to individual and company demands. The old model of business school education - a two-year on campus training before heading out into the business world - is no longer the only option available to you. The perceived value of an MBA education has changed in the digital era and online MBAs for working professionals have become quite a force.
Most leading universities now offer an online MBA programme aimed at mid-career executives who are at pivotal junctures in their careers. The rigorous curriculum matches their on campus counterparts and prepares students to emerge with tools and advanced management practices to increase their impact in business.
The flexibility and the option for self-paced learning are perceived as the key benefits of an online MBA for working professionals. For that very reason, however, students must push themselves even harder to stay on schedule and complete their degree amidst a myriad of responsibilities and distractions.
Balancing your workload with the time commitment to studying alongside your personal obligations is key. You need to be organised, disciplined and have a self-motivating approach to your MBA study.
Here are some effective ways to manage your time and help you sail through your online MBA programme:
The moment you decide to enrol in an online MBA programme, start planning for the next few years. The duration of the programme differs between schools, but it is usually for two years. That means that for those 2-3 years you will be juggling work and studies, and this will include deadlines, exams and everything in between. You need to plan your days ahead, how you will divide your time between work and when you will attend the online classes, and when you will study. Keep in mind that you will have to accommodate personal matters in the same 24 hours as well.
Engage friends and family
Involve your family and friends in your decision so that they can help rather than distract. A cooperative spouse, friend or parent can be significant support and will help you deal with the added burden of the academics along with your work commitments. Communicate your goals and get everyone on board so they can support you during this endeavour. They need to understand that you will not be available for many engagements for the duration of the programme and yet ensure that you do have some social life from time to time.
Setting both long term and short goals will help you maintain focus and keep your eye on the prize, the MBA degree that will propel your career growth. It is important to set realistic expectations to go through your course load, the time you have in hand and allotting deadlines that will not stress you out.
Create a schedule
You need to become an excellent planner if you want to perform well at work and in your MBA programme. Create an overview of your monthly, weekly and daily studying, track your progress and set reminders for your study goals. You also need to practice some creative scheduling like attending a lecture or completing an assignment during a lunch break, or while you are commuting. Set aside a time, like early morning or late in the evening when you have the least bit of distractions so that you can focus on your school work without interruptions. Print out your study programme for the whole trimester, with details about courses, topics, and deadlines for submission of assignments. Then make your study plan based on key programme dates.
Prioritise tasks and commitments
To stay on top of the rigorous curriculum you may have to become an expert at prioritising. Start with putting everything on your calendar so that you don’t forget any task or commitment, even personal ones. Then start prioritising through these tasks so that you are efficient, productive and able to balance your work, family life, and school. Most online MBA professors create and share weekly agendas with their students so that they can incorporate the information and create their own workable schedules. You may find that your time management and prioritisation skills, essential for business, have become well-honed during the programme.
Inform your employer
A large percentage of online MBA students are working professionals, and if you are one of them, then the first thing to do is to let your employer know you are pursuing an online degree. They will be more understanding about your workload and schedule not to mention appreciative of the fact that you are advancing your skills and knowledge. For most employers, this is a sign of a driven employee who is a lifelong learner and has the potential to add value to the company.
Arrange for downtime
All work and no play has never helped anyone and if you don’t want to burn out before you get your degree, make sure that you put in lots of downtime in your schedule. Pursuing your MBA will be a rewarding experience, and while you may need to make sacrifices to balance the pressure of work and study, you will be unable to do it without taking enough breaks in between. Make sure you log off from your daily routine for a few hours every week to relax, socialise, spend time with your family and do something you love like cooking, playing the piano, going ice skating or reading.
An online MBA is an opportunity to join an elite forum for innovation and leadership, and you can only take advantage of this opportunity when you learn to manage time effectively. Practice the methods above to balance your work, life and study schedules, develop an edge in your management capabilities and build skills that will last a lifetime.