How do you find time

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A lot of people ask me how I find time to study for an MBA as well as honouring my employer, being a great colleague and being an engaged parent to two children under the age of three…[not to mention blogging and maintaining a social media presence!]

To be honest – some things have to give. At the start of the course I made a list of all of the things I wanted to do and prioritised them, providing some consideration as to the amount of time they would require. With a reasonable idea of my priorities and how much time things would take – I was able to mindfully accept that I probably wasn’t going to keep up with the NFL during my MBA, nor was any kind of team sport going to be “above the line” if I was going to keep my family and main extra curricular activity (Church) in focus. I also wanted to set out with more than enough time in my schedule for the course with a view to add activities in rather than have to take them out. Alas, one of the big things that has been sacrificed is sleep – I’m on very early starts simply to cram in a full day of work, long commute and family time!

My days are always full but extremely fulfilling, by focussing on what’s important to me right now, I’m able to finish each day confident that I’ve made the best use of the time that has been given to me. Practically a weekday for me looks something like this:

  • 0500 – Alarm goes!!!
  • 0550 – Head to the station (never seem to leave in time)
  • 0603 – In my seat on the train (always the same people in the same carriages!) ready to start studying. I study for the whole of my commute having downloaded videos in advance and using the train wifi to navigate pages. I also use this time to chat with coursemates on our WhatsApp group, giving my opinions or answering questions.
  • 0725 – Off the train at Waterloo and then walk through to my office in Westminster (the only “exercise” I get)
  • 0745 – At my desk (usually the first in…and the first out)
  • Lunchtime – Quick lunchbreak checking emails and WhatsApps from my coursemates
  • 1615 – Out of the office and dashing for the train (again never leaving enough time!)
  • 1635 – Onto the train for a good hour or so of studying on the journey home making use of pre-downloaded videos and the trains wifi to connect with any group work
  • 1800 – Usually home by now then straight upstairs to put the kids through the bath and to bed, sometimes manage to steal a bit of time to read while they settle
  • 1930 – Finally sit down for dinner with my very understanding wife!
  • 2000 – depending on the evening it’s usually studying or spending some quality time with my wife, I usually study a couple of evenings a week which, with my commute time, is about enough to keep on top of it all! This far I have avoided doing anything on the weekends apart from downloading videos!
  • 2230 – hopefully heading to bed depending on how settled the kids are….!

A few things that have helped me stay on top of things that might help you too!

  • Apps: There are a plethora of productivity apps to help you get organised. By knowing that my work to do list is in great shape, I can focus on studying in study time without being distracted by worrying about remembering something at work!
  • Space to Study: Nothing has changed since you were an undergraduate and distractions are all around you still! Find a good place to work without distractions (including your job!), the train is really good for this as the phone signal is so terrible I can’t be interrupted anyway.
  • Keep the Pace: Don’t rush ahead, don’t fall behind. The courses build in complexity so expecting to do weeks 9 and 10 during revision leave isn’t a smart strategy! I also don’t try and race ahead – if it’s week 3, you’ll find me working on week 3 material. The course is designed for you to maintain a steady pace so stick to making sure you understand that week.
  • Revise as You Go: Exams come up really, REALLY fast so being well prepared pays dividends. Using the learning objectives from each week, I write myself a little summary at the end of each topic to check my learning against what I am supposed to have learned! This then forms the framework for my revision

There is no one size fits all for finding the time. I have some regular scheduled time that I stick to unless there is an extremely good reason and that discipline has served me well. Others for their studying in much more ad hoc, the important thing is to stay ahead of the “class average” on the dreaded tracker….

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About Alex Sheen

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