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10 Tips for Balancing Work, School, and Family

An MBA student between classes.The thought of adding coursework to an already packed work and home schedule may seem overwhelming, especially for busy parents. However, there are ways to balance your work, home, and school life without feeling the need to add hours to the day.

If you are considering a Healthcare MBA, career motivation may play a large role in your decision. A Healthcare MBA can be used to advance your career in an expanding field that is growing 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, adding about 2.3 million new jobs. In the healthcare industry, an MBA in Healthcare Management can help increase earning potential. In an industry worth an estimated 2.26 trillion dollars, there is a great deal of room for upward growth. The potential rewards of an increased salary can be applied to so many aspects of life, especially life with a family. Increased earnings may enhance the potential to spend quality time with loved ones, and this can make any short-term challenges or sacrifices worthwhile.

One of the greatest benefits of online classes is their flexibility over traditional classes. When choosing an online class, schedule it for the most convenient part of your day, be it mornings, evenings, or somewhere in between. According to an analysis published in the Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, this flexibility is the top reason students choose online education. Before enrolling in courses, a mental shift is essential. Understand your motivation and prepare to change your daily habits.

The Life of an Average American

According to the American Time Use Survey, parents between the ages of 25 and 54 spend an average of 8.8 hours on work, 7.8 hours on sleep, 2.6 hours on leisure activities, and 1.2 hours caring for others, including children. This leaves nearly 4 hours for schoolwork, which is not a lot of time. Still, fitting everything comfortably into one day can be attainable, with a little planning ahead.

General Time Management Tips

When adding a major activity to an already busy schedule, an efficient first step is to evaluate how you currently do things. How do you spend your time? Can you do anything more efficiently? The following tips can help answer these questions.

Define Tasks in Advance

Create a plan for each day to ensure time for everything you must accomplish. It is easy to get distracted by unexpected occurrences or dedicate too much time to planned events; the key is to decide on a set of tasks that must be completed within the day and stick to them.

Group Like Tasks Together

As the daily plan unfolds, look for certain tasks that can be accomplished together. For example, doing the dishes and having a phone conversation may be checked off the list simultaneously. Although research has shown that multitasking important tasks like studying may be counterproductive, grouping and handling tasks that require less focus together can be beneficial and save a lot of time.

Eliminate Downtime

Relaxation and forced downtime are different—the first is necessary, while the latter feels like a waste of time. Although moments spent waiting for something are inevitable, keeping a notepad or schoolwork on hand can help maximize time. The doctor's waiting room, for instance, is a great place to finish some homework.

Once you have evaluated your day, use the following 10 tips to help you balance your work, school, and parenting responsibilities.

10 Tips for Balancing Parenting, Work, and School

When working towards a degree, remember that any sacrifices made during this time are temporary. Education is a lifelong commitment, but the demands of coursework will soon come to an end. With that in mind, follow these tips to balance school with other daily responsibilities.

1. Dedicate time to updating the calendar

It may seem redundant to schedule time for scheduling, but it is a helpful part of the time management process. If a calendar is outdated with incorrect tasks and timing, it is essentially useless. An up-to-date calendar keeps events from being overlooked, which will help your day run smoothly and efficiently.

A prospective study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology tested whether time management ability could predict college grade point average. As part of this study, 90 college students completed a time-management questionnaire. Researchers reviewed their answers along with Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores and determined that time management was a better predictor of grade point average than SAT scores.

2. Designate “schoolwork time”

Set aside an hour or two each day to study while the kids do their homework. This will help ensure that everyone has time for their work and allows for some multitasking, as parents can work on their MBA studies while their children complete their homework.

Feel free to redirect some of your study time to help your children with their homework. A Journal of Educational Research study found that students who do homework with their parents may achieve better grades than those who take care of assignments on their own. In the study, six classes completed assignments with directions for parent involvement, while four classes completed assignments without any parental or other interaction. Students who involved family members completed more assignments and earned significantly higher report card grades.

3. Let your professors know you are busy

Remember that your professors are also human and have obligations outside of school. Most will understand the challenges of balancing work and life, and they may be more willing to extend a deadline if they are aware of your busy schedule.

Consider your professor a part of your educational team. As in the office, when one team member is unaware of the project goals, it will have an impact on the entire team’s outcome. According to a Clear Company survey, 97 percent of employees and executives believe that alignment within a team has a positive impact on a project.

4. Ask for help

The most dangerous pitfall of balancing work and life is thinking that you must do it by yourself. Instead of taking on all the responsibility, try dividing up the work. Think about what you want to accomplish daily, weekly, and monthly, and make a list of projects that you can delegate easily to others. Hire a cleaning service to take over household chores or bring in a babysitter to watch the kids while you study.

Regardless of who may be helping, remember to make that person feel like their help matters to you. A research article published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science found that workers excel when their employer emphasizes the value of their work. Even if your family member is helping without pay, emphasize how much their help means to your day and they will be more likely to make themselves available for future help.

5. Prep meals in advance

Most people walk in their front door shortly before dinner time—this is one of the busiest times of the day, and time-consuming meal prepping can cut into homework time. Save time by prepping multiple meals at once so they merely need reheating at dinner time. A few tips for prepping meals in advance include plan an entire week, designate a cooking day, and pre-chop vegetables.

6. Create an organized and dedicated study space

Designate an area in your home for study and homework time. Reserve this space solely for schoolwork. Keep it clean to remain productive: clutter and chaos cause distractions that prevent you from focusing on work.

Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute conducted a study on how uncluttered living affects our ability to focus. They found that when multiple stimuli are present in the same visual field, the clutter limits the brain's ability to process information.

7. Review course syllabus and plan ahead

The syllabus outlines what will be expected of you in any course. This document generally includes course policies, required texts, and a schedule of assignments. Review the syllabus as soon as it is available and add each quiz and assignment deadline as an event on your calendar. This will reduce the likelihood of scheduling other events around a test or an important assignment. With advance planning, you can ensure that you will have enough time to prepare for important events.

8. Write clear and realistic goals

Set realistic educational goals, write them down and stick to them; these may include test grades, extra credit, or project completion times. A Dominican University study has proven this habit may increase productivity in the form of goals accomplished. Researchers recruited 267 participants from a wide range of businesses and networking groups and learned that more than 70 percent of participants who sent weekly written updates achieved their goals or came close. Only 35 percent of people who did not write their goals reported coming close to achieving them.

9. Set aside time to relax and recover

Plan time in your schedule for relaxation and to take care of yourself. A packed schedule can cause stress, so it is important to dedicate time to relax and rejuvenate between hectic days. Try dedicating an entire day to relaxing – consider a massage, a manicure or pedicure, or taking a yoga class.

Taking time off when you are busy may seem counterintuitive, but studies have shown that vacations can improve work output. A Harvard Business Review study found that people in countries with more paid vacation days seemed more likely to work at a faster pace and have a higher quantity focus.

10. Make friends with other students

Having friends in class makes it is easy to connect, unload, and share time management tips. Finding a like-minded friend in class also offers time for busy students to connect without having to schedule extra social time.

One small American Psychological Association study found that being around a friend at a stressful time can decrease cortisol levels, which is an indication that stress levels have also decreased. Researchers asked about 100 children aged 10 to 12 to write their feelings in a journal five times a day over the course of four days. They were also to note whether they spent time alone or with a parent, sibling, or friend. Researchers tested cortisol levels gathered from the children and found that those who experienced something unpleasant while their best friend did not produce as much cortisol as they did when they experienced it alone. Making friends in class may therefore help keep stress levels from rising too high.

Going back to school while working and parenting can be a challenging experience, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Follow the tips above to help multitask and manage time and stress, and remind yourself why you want to get a degree.

Recommended Reading

9 Successful Individuals Who Returned to School
What MBA Focus Should You Pursue?
George Washington University Healthcare MBA Program


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