My name is Aakriti Jhunjhunwala and I live in Kolkata, India and work as an Equity Trader and Investor. Currently, I am studying the Global Online MBA at Imperial College Business School which is a part-time programme.
At Imperial, I serve on the Student-Staff Committee for my cohort and also as a Senior Analyst for the Student Investment Fund. Apart from full-time work and part-time time education, my day-to-day life includes being a newlywed, a caretaker for my family and a fundraiser for a local non-profit organisation. I know that this all may seem like a lot, and sometimes it is! However, it is also extremely rewarding.
In the last few months, I have learned how to hone my multitasking skills to derive the best of the once-in-a-lifetime experience Imperial offers all its students. By employing a well-crafted plan of action, a few good habits and a whole lot of passion, I believe anyone can achieve the coveted work-life-study balance.
The Global Online MBA programme
The Global Online MBA is a part-time, online programme designed for professionals to pursue while continuing work. The programme length duration is from 21, 24 or 32 months, with each year being divided into three terms, each being roughly 12 weeks long. Each term we are given two modules (aka subjects/classes) which are in turn are split into manageable weekly sub-sections across the term. Depending on which module is being taught, the assessment includes group presentations, periodic quizzes, individual essays and class participation.
Academically, the time required for the Global Online MBA is approximately 20-25 hours a week. However, if one can find a way to take out a few more hours a week, then they can explore the diverse extracurricular opportunities that Imperial offers – ranging from Student Council, Career Clubs, the Imperial Enterprise Lab or professional development opportunities. I highly recommend this added time investment as it provides unique holistic development and a chance to meet extraordinary people from the larger Imperial community.
So how does one do it? Work 40 hours a week of work plus 20-25 hours a week of study plus a few hours a week of extracurricular and regular life? I promise it isn’t impossible! Here are five tips that have helped me manage my workload immensely:
1. Plan and set a routine
The first thing I recommend for success on a part-time Imperial programme at Imperial is to set yourself a plan of action. Now this plan will look different for everyone based on their circumstance, commitments, and preferences. That’s completely okay, as long as you have a routine that works for you.
The reason is that as the term progresses, the number of things to get done increases exponentially. Therefore, it is always good to get into a good rhythm early on that will allow you to stay on top of things. Personally, I prefer to do a little bit of work during the working week, especially administrative and extracurricular work. However, the bulk of my academic learning happens over the weekend.
I clear out my weekend in accordance with that week’s module load, well in advance. This means reducing socialising and lazy Sundays, but having a study plan in advance allows me to have mental clarity. I approach the weekends with purpose and motivation, rather than relying on my mood and impulses to direct me. With practice, the routine becomes easier to execute.
2. Schedule ‘me time’
The next thing I like to do is to schedule ‘me time’ into my routine when I relax alone by doing nothing. This is very important because there is a very real possibility of burnout when we are trying to juggle work, life, family and studies all at once. If we don’t take time to periodically recharge ourselves mentally, then the toll of the workload will eventually catch up on us!
I suggest that you make a commitment to unwind and take this as seriously as you would take any work commitment. And I meant it when I say take it seriously. Put it in your calendar and when that reminder notification flashes, switch off from all responsibilities, relationships and devices and just be. There are no aims or goals for ’me-time’. You can do whatever relaxes you and helps you rejuvenate mentally. I think that even minutes of time every few days can contribute significantly towards long term success in the programme.
3. Set expectations from the onset
If you are doing a part-time programme, chances are you have a number of people in your life that will be affected by your studies indirectly. For example, there may be family members, managers, supervisors, colleagues and friends to consider. It is a good idea to have an honest conversation with these people at the start of the programme to align expectations. Things you may wish to discuss are programme timeline, exam dates and day-to-day work commitments.
Having these conversations early on and finding mutually acceptable conditions with all stakeholders allows you to not feel stressed or guilty later on when the programme becomes demanding. Similarly, you can also consider discussing your availability and limitations with your classmates, especially your syndicate group with whom you will work closely during the first year on group projects. This transparency builds trust and trust is integral to harnessing an amicable and productive working relationship.
4. Prioritise quality over quantity
Even with the best multitasking skills and perfect discipline, you are bound to lose out on some things due to the sheer limitation of resources. You will find yourself in a situation where a final exam, a networking event, a club meeting, a work presentation and a friend’s wedding are all scheduled in the same week. In this situation, I have found that the best thing to do, apart from advance preparation, is to prioritise quality over quantity. We may be better off giving our time to fewer activities but being fully present and deriving the most from the activities we are partaking in.
I meet fewer people, fewer times, but focus on making those connections strong. If we make the hours that are spent at work really count and limits distractions and procrastination, then the smaller number of hours won’t matter. Similarly, if we are truly enjoying the hours we give to our friends and family, then we don’t have to feel guilty about the hours we are not able to spare. Quality time invested and quality work done makes the work-life-study balance much more achievable!
5. Start small
My last tip is for those among us who aren’t the most disciplined workers and suffer from the most human lapses such as procrastination and distraction. My advice is to start on small tasks to get the work done. At the end of a long day at work, when I come home and face the prospect of completing an entire module, I will often tell myself just to watch one lecture video, just complete one part of the assignment. Most of the time once I have started the work, I will continue to do more work.
Some other hacks include starting with the most appealing task or the easiest task and moving on to tougher tasks once you are in a productive flow. Even on days that you’re not feeling it, getting a little done goes a long way towards staying in the work mindset. The aim should be progress, not perfection, and sometimes have to trick ourselves to make that progress.
The Global Online MBA takes hard work and commitment. But with the right tools and support from friends and family, you will quickly see the rewards of doing an MBA.