Time Management Tools: Organize Your Coursework to Optimize Your Time

Ellen McMahon, EdD

Friday, March 21, 2014

Being a post-secondary student the first time around was hard, and that was when you had fewer obligations.  Returning to get your MBA through either full time or part-time studies as an adult brings with it the additional challenge of managing your schedule and priorities, which include family life, responsibilities to your employer as well as making time for recreation and relaxation.

Even individuals with finely honed time management skills find that returning to school to pursue their MBA is an adjustment.   But planning your participation in an MBA program requires some strategy and organization to ensure that your study fits in with your current obligations.  You also want to be able to enjoy the experience of being on campus or collaborating online with other Lake Forest Graduate School of Management students and faculty for a quality educative experience.

If you have decided to return to complete an MBA program with us, some preplanning and strategy should be developed to organize your time and your coursework in order to manage it effectively so that you can get the most out of your Lake Forest Graduate School experience.    We have put together a few tips to help with the transition for returning students.

Factor in Travel Time  

Creating an effective schedule is much more than making a list of your class times and locations.  Factoring in the logistics of travel (for onsite students) or conference time (for distance learners) is an important part of the equation and one that many students overlook.

Depending on where you are travelling from make sure to add your travel time to your daily itinerary because commuting time adds up to less desk time on a weekly basis.   Looking to save time when the course begins?  Take a tour of the school and map out the location of your classes

Create a Realistic Schedule

Your time is valuable and the best way to make the most of it is to create a schedule that includes much more than your in class time. If you are taking a face to face course block off the class time as “credit hours”.  If you are taking an online course build in the equivalent hours early in the week so you are prepared to participate throughout the week.  Next, anticipate the amount of time that will be required for reviewing the digital presentation material created by your faculty, reading, research and other coursework required for each course, as well as social and networking time. Remember to include time for your team meetings.  Making connections is part of the Lake Forest experience.

Depending on whether you are returning on a part-time or full-time basis, the general rule of thumb is to multiply the number of credits in the semester by two or three to get an accurate approximation of the amount of class and study time that will be required.  For instance, if you are completing 15 credits, you can anticipate up to forty-five (45) hours per week of in-class time and study.

Before you enroll in your MBA consider how much time per week you have available to dedicate to your studies and determine what course load works best with your other obligations and commitments.  Invest in an app or time manager that works easily to run your schedule efficiently with reminders and notes.

Other Tips for Students

1.     Even if group work is not required for each class, consider creating study groups.  It’s a great way to hone your project management or participation skills in a group setting and it will improve your performance as you collaborate with other students in the program.

2.     Identify key technologies that will allow you work virtually when needed. Good collaboration and presentations technologies can be life savers.

3.     Connect with other students or Alumni at events to ask for valuable advice and guidance with regards to certain courses and methods.  What they know could save you valuable time and concern.

4.     Get comfortable reading text in volume.  You will be reviewing lecture notes, case studies and other materials and while “skimming” is time efficient, it is not the best way to retain what you are reading.  Over anticipate the amount of reading time you will need, in order to keep it manageable.

5.     Shift other lifestyle obligations where possible.  If Saturday morning is the best time to complete much of your coursework, opt to do the grocery shopping on a weekday evening, after class.   One small example of shifting obligations that can create more focused study time for you.

Do you have tips to share with other students?  What advice would you give to new students entering the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management program?  Leave a comment below or share with us on Twitter!  #LFGSM

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Ellen McMahon, EdD 

Dean, Faculty Relations and Degree Programs


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