5 tips for work-life balance in business school

In order to get the most out of your time in business school, you’ll need to make some changes to your regular schedule. I often tell prospective students that starting school while maintaining a career and personal life is like jumping onto a moving treadmill. It looks dangerous, but with some planning, it can be easier than you expect. (Disclaimer: Please do not actually try to physically jump onto a moving treadmill.)

Manage Expectations
Naturally, your personal life is going to take the biggest hit from business school as you need to continue to do well at work. It is actually a reasonable excuse to skip a long brunch because you have a team meeting or need to study for an exam! Let your friends, family members and partners know when you have class, meetings or study time. By being up front about what you can do in your personal life, you won’t disappoint anyone.

Be a Good Teammate
One commitment made by the various teams I’ve been a part of was to be open and honest about our schedules. Typically, we’d set a specific conference call time each week throughout the term that worked for everyone. This accommodated those who had travel plans, as well as those who couldn’t make it all the way to campus for a meeting. In my experience, everyone is going to have a conflict at some point and the purpose of the team is to manage the collective workload. So, be clear about what you can do but also be willing to take on something extra when one of your teammates is struggling that week.

Eliminate Things That Don’t Add Value
The benefit of having less time to yourself is that you start to realize what really matters. I found myself unsubscribing from emails to eliminate distractions. I’ve always been a planner, but found myself taking a closer look at what I would be doing and how I would manage my time around that. So, if it doesn’t add value for you personally, professionally or scholastically — my suggestion is to let it go.

Set a Personal Schedule
It’s important to have a plan for managing your study time, in addition to your time in class and at the office. While you have to pick an approach that works for you, my strategy was to set aside Sundays as my rest days where I’d stay close to home and spend 30 minutes just organizing and planning for the week. That meant my schedule had to give elsewhere. I dedicate the Saturday morning of non-class weekends to school work. I also dedicate time each night to homework such as readings and case analysis. This allowed me to take small bites out of the assignments and study over a longer period of time, rather than having to do it all at once.

Organize, Organize, Organize
I love binders. I said it. They have been great to me throughout the WEMBA program. I made one for each class with a tab for each two-week period. I’d even spend the week before a new term printing out materials and preparing a spreadsheet of assignments, along with due dates and if they were a group or individual task. With all of my answers and materials in dedicated locations, I never found myself unprepared.

As you can see, organization is key. Prioritizing space in your calendar, being a proactive communicator, and sticking to a study schedule will be tools that will help ensure your success throughout the program.

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Tom Crosson

Tom Crosson, 18WEMBA, is a group vice president at SunTrust in Atlanta. Tom leads corporate communications for the Wholesale Segment, with responsibility for internal, external and executive communications. Previously, he led media relations for the Consumer Bankers Association, and served as a press secretary, communications director, and senior advisor for two members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Tom earned his Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from Purdue University. When he's not at school, you can find him cooking with his wife, walking his wheaten terrier or playing golf.

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