Keeping all the spinning plates in the air – managing your MBA, work and life

Will I be able to handle it all? Work, life, and the pursuit of an MBA—all at once? This is a question that dogged me in the months leading up to my first semester and is one of the most common questions I get when speaking to potential or freshly minted Evening MBA students at Goizueta. One question inevitably follows my assurance that yes, you can indeed manage all three: how do you do it? The answer is simple to understand but can involve a learning curve—you learn to actively manage your time. Here are a few tips and tricks for juggling the work/life/school trifecta to help get you started with keeping all the spinning plates in the air:

  1. Ask your classmates. How do others manage? I’ve picked up a wealth of knowledge from my classmates. They are all equally driven, brilliant professionals who have a diverse set of experiences and skills under their belt. They could have a time management or organization strategy that might work well for you. They understand the challenges of managing a multitude of priorities. We are all in the same boat, and my classmates have lent me their ear or their knowledge on many occasions.
  2. Understand why you are getting your MBA, then prioritize your time around that true north. While your classmates can empathize and offer you ideas on how to best manage your time, their reasons for getting their MBA and the challenges on their time are different than yours. Ask yourself, why are you at Goizueta? Do you want to increase your business acumen? Enhance or accelerate your career prospects? Make more connections? Get leadership experience? Another under-the-radar reason? All, some or one of those things? Take the time to come to terms with what your reasons are and prioritize your time and efforts around those things.
  3. Get comfortable with prioritizing. While learning organization skills will be enormously helpful in keeping track of required readings, assignments, and group meetings, prioritizing your time will be the most important skill to master. Knowing what you want to do and what you don’t want to do is easy. Saying no to an opportunity you’d love to take but don’t have enough time to fully commit to isn’t easy. Situations like this will come up. You will have to prioritize your time and learn when and how to say no (to yourself and others). Be mindful when you agree to a volunteer consulting project or TA’ing for a favorite professor. Make sure these opportunities align with #2 because you will only have so much time in a day. Don’t forget to include your life and work in your prioritization and balance where possible. If you are conscientious of what you’ve put on your plate, it can be easier to say no to things out of alignment with your life, work, and MBA goals.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Someday, inevitably, you will drop a spinning plate. When it happens, treat yourself as you would treat your classmate in the same situation. You are living multiple lives all at once—it is okay if you don’t do everything perfectly all the time! When it happens, take the opportunity to take stock and reprioritize, if needed. Should you pull back on casing, recruitment prep, that volunteer consulting project? I’ve learned this lesson more than once. I’ve learned that the combination of practicing #3, remembering to prioritize time to rest, be unproductive and recharge will go a long way with managing MBA, life, and work successfully.
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Hannah Courtney

Hannah Courtney, PMP is a consultant and EvMBA 2021. She is involved in the Goizueta community as the 2021 VP of Career Management and has a deep interest in building her leadership skills and learning to develop the next generation of leaders. Hannah enjoys cooking meals for friends, hiking with her husband and dog and as an alumnus of the University of Michigan, she enjoys cheering on the Wolverines competing in any sport (mostly football).

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