Going into graduate school, I was proud of my ability to accomplish tasks and balance everything using only my mind. Despite the occasional workload in undergrad, I thought it was quite manageable and I was able to play everything out in my head. I felt like I had the perfect balance of life, work, and school. Graduate school can’t be that different, can it? Never have I been more wrong in my life.
Fast forward to today, I have personally experienced my world being thrown into chaos. My weekly schedule consists of working 20 hours a week along with my graduate classes. A regular day would comprise of work in the mornings, classes in the afternoon, and then back to work until the evening. Anytime left in the late evening would be dedicated to tons of reading, assignments, and projects. On the weekends, I volunteer with my Vietnamese community on Saturdays and direct a leadership program on Sundays. With all of this going on, is it even possible to balance everything at once?
After a short period of getting accustomed to a much busier schedule, I have five tips that I’ve found to be very helpful in terms of creating that balance with life, work, and school:
1. Get organized
Taking the time to visually lay out what needs to be done is incredibly helpful, especially if you have multiple tasks that need to be completed on a weekly basis. Planners, apps (Evernote is excellent), sticky notes, and whiteboards are an easy way to jot down your tasks.
2. Prioritize the important stuff first
It’s easy to get lost in all of the tasks that you need to do. You’ll accomplish some tasks here and there and suddenly realize you don’t have enough time to complete what matters. Prioritizing your tasks will help you allocate the proper amount of time needed for each item. Focus on the heavy stuff first and complete any menial tasks in between when you need a break. Time management is everything!
3. Honestly assess the amount of time you waste
“I don’t have enough time.”
Although for some this statement might be true, take some time to look back on your week and see if this is actually true for you. You’d be surprised to find how many hours you end up wasting on something that could have been used for a more productive purpose.
4. Build a support system
There will be times when you will be overwhelmed and stressed out of your mind. Be sure to have people who you can rely on during this time to help pick you back up and put you back on track. Knowing you’re not alone makes a huge difference.
5. Create “Me Time”
Avoid burnouts by making sure you set time aside to focus on yourself. Be sure to eat well, make enough time for sleep, and exercise. Take the time to breathe, read a book, go out with friends for a drink, and spend some quality time by yourself. Do what makes you happy and spend time on things that matter to you. There is only one of you, so be sure to take care of yourself!
Luke Nguyen, '17 Bridge MBA Candidate