8 Strategies to Maintain Work-Life Balance While Pursuing an Online MBA

Ninety-two percent of corporate recruiters and ninety-five percent of staffing firms planned to hire new MBA graduates in 2022, according to the Corporate Recruiters Survey report by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

This is good news for those enrolled in an MBA program; job prospects look excellent once you graduate.

It’s the time that you’re in school—while working, tending to family obligations, and trying to have a social life—that can be worrisome. Balancing all of it is no easy feat, but for many students, this is the reality of their journey to an MBA.

Jackie Klatt Eib, MEd, associate director, Integrative Student Services—Online Programs at Wake Forest University, discusses strategies to manage work-life balance while enrolled in an online MBA program.

How to Maintain Work-Life Balance While Earning an MBA

As you read these tips, keep in mind that the balance between work, life, and school will look different for everyone.

“Someone who has children or other caregiver responsibilities and works from home will have a work-life balance that looks different than someone who travels every week for work,” says Eib. “Remember to be patient with yourself, and know that you’re only human.”

1. Set goals and priorities

Similar to how you might set fitness or nutrition goals, set academic goals as well, and then prioritize your schoolwork as needed.

“Aim to set small goals, such as ‘I’m going to read one chapter,’” says Eib. “Make sure your goals are manageable. It’s OK if one goal is small and another goal is bigger. Do whatever works with your schedule.”

In addition, make sure you understand the syllabus going into your class. If you’re unclear on expectations, ask your instructor. And keep track of your grades, either by using a GPA calculator or something similar.

2. Apply the principles of good time management

“Time management is one of the most important soft skills you need to make this balance work,” says Eib. “Understand the deadlines for the term to help you structure your schedule. Oftentimes, even before classes begin, you know what all of your deadlines are. Use that information to plan your semester out.”

Tips here include:

  • Use scheduling and project management apps to track commitments, deadlines, meetings, and other key dates.
  • Break your to-do list into digestible tasks so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Every Sunday, set up a game plan for the week ahead; visual people can set up a big wall calendar, with different-colored Post-It notes blocking off time for various projects. Others may wish to schedule everything in a digital or hard-copy calendar.

“I know some students who print out their deadlines, put them on their refrigerator, and cross them out as they meet them,” Eib says. “Use whichever method that works best for you, but just make sure you have those deadlines in front of you in some way.”

3. Get help from the Student Services department

Every reputable college and university has a Student Services department. These are designed to guide and assist students in all aspects of the student experience. Take the time to get to know the staff who are supporting you in your program; they’re there to help you meet your personal and academic goals.

“Student Services has amazing resources,” says Eib. “We can point you in the right direction for your needs, or if we don’t know the answer, we know who does. Take the initiative to know your Student Services representative and ask for help, and then we can work with you as needed.”

>> Visit the site for Wake Forest University’s Integrative Student Services Department

4. Enlist support from friends and family

“Friends and family are part of this balance, too,” says Eib. “Ask for their support in keeping you motivated—and also their grace when your schoolwork needs to be prioritized. Redistribute chores such as mowing the lawn or cleaning the dishes if you need to.”

Tell your loved ones what your goals are and keep them updated on your progress. Maintain open communication with them, and don’t be afraid to tell them what you need or ask for help. Once they understand your commitments and time constraints, most will be happy to provide encouragement and help in other areas while you focus on schoolwork.

5. Accept that a perfect work-life balance does not exist

If the perfect work-life balance did exist, you wouldn’t be reading this article.

“What works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. We make mistakes. It’s important not to dwell on those; take them as lessons, and try to do better next time,” Eib says.

6. Remember the end goal

The end goal isn’t just that you successfully complete your program. You should also feel happy and healthy and that other areas of your life aren’t negatively affected by this balancing act.

“Motivate yourself in whatever way works for you,” says Eib. “A sticky note on your mirror, a mantra that you say to yourself, a list of your reasons for earning an MBA in your planner. Give yourself a constant reminder of your goals.”

One idea is to write out your signature with your new title at the end.

“For example, I may write ‘Jackie Klatt Eib, MBA’ and post it on my mirror. You can look at it every day. Remind yourself, ‘That’s what I’m working toward. That’s what I want.’”

7. Set up dedicated workspaces for separate activities

If you work from home, take online courses, and have a family to take care of, that’s a lot happening under one roof. Eib recommends dedicating physical spaces for separate activities.

“Choose a certain room, desk, or table, and let everybody you live with know, ‘When I’m here, I’m doing schoolwork.’ This is a good way to get in the right mindset for studying, and it’s a good indicator that you’re in ‘school mode’ and shouldn’t be interrupted.”

Limit your distractions when you’re in your dedicated workspace. Put your phone in the other room, turn off notifications for email, and temporarily block social media on your computer.

8. Stay connected to your classmates

Peers are an excellent means to receive extra support, especially in an online setting.

“Your classmates are going to be a great resource in the classroom and for networking opportunities,” says Eib. “There are many ways to stay connected with your peers, whether it’s forming a GroupMe, Facebook group, or even group text message. Form these connections, be a part of study groups, and work together as you make your way through the program.”

As you and your peers bond, you can discuss how they maintain work-life balance. They may have an idea that you haven’t thought of.

Support for Wake Forest Online MBA Students

Online MBA students at Wake Forest have access to a wealth of student support resources. These include:

Earn an Online MBA with Wake Forest

Remember that everybody wants you to succeed. “We’re all here on your side,” says Eib. “We’re all your cheerleaders. So let us cheer for you, and we’re all happy to support you.”

If you’re considering earning an MBA online, learn more about the Wake Forest online MBA program. When you’re ready to take the next step, request more information.