A while back I decided to take advantage of some GI Bill benefits that were still available to me. I returned to school to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. The good news is I'll graduate without needing any loans. The bad news is in order to receive my full GI Bill benefits, I have to attend classes at least half time. No, that doesn't mean I only have to attend half the classes (I wish it were so). What that really means is I need to take at least a half time course load. At the school I'm attending, a full course load in the master's program is three classes, so I have to take at lease two classes per semester.
That sounded a lot easier before I started classes. Two masters' level courses at one time is a pretty decent workload, especially when you're working full time and trying to raise a family. At about the same time I started classes, things got a lot busier at work too, so I ended up working a lot more hours. Time management became critical. Unfortunately for me, time management is not one of my strengths.
There have been several times during this journey where I wondered if it was worth it. It would be much easier to not be in school while I'm working. But I know it'll be worth it when it's all said and done. In a few months I'll be looking back thinking how easy it was!
Meanwhile, I've got to finish. So the time management piece becomes a challenge. It's tough to maintain a balance when you add something to your schedule that takes up so much time. It's like I took on a part-time job, putting in 10-15 hours per week or more.
I try to maintain a work-life balance when I can. It's a constant juggling act, with even attention being paid to my career, my family, my faith, and my health. I guess personal time should be in there too, but it rarely gets included. Anyway, under normal conditions I can maintain a pretty good balance. When I throw something extra in there like school, it automatically means the other areas will suffer. Because I'm taking classes, I have less time for extracurricular activities with the kids. I have less time for church activities. I have less time to work out and maintain my health. I don't have less time for work because I can't control that - in fact, my work load has gone up since I started classes.
So I have to concentrate more on one area of my life. The other areas will inevitably suffer. Thus, I work hard to keep up in school and work until I get a break, then I catch up in other areas. The critical piece of this all is for me to realize that others are affected by this and to keep them in the loop. My family knows that there won't be much family time until I graduate. They know work and school will take priority for a while. But they also know that after I graduate, I'm planning ahead to shift the balance back in their favor.
Nothing worth doing ever comes easy. Making sacrifices in some areas of life is part of achieving success in other areas. Have you made short-term sacrifices recently in order to reach your goals? How do you manage your time to maintain balance when you're working on extra-curricular goals? If you've got any secrets, I'd love to hear them!