By: Bridget C Lewis ©2011
A few months ago I made the decision to go back to school. My adventures in running my business have been fun and challenging, and as a result, I quickly realized my business skills limitations. Recognizing this need, I decided to pursue an MBA degree in Small Business Management. The purpose of this post is to discuss how managers can manage a busy schedule while taking charge of their own development. This post is not intended for the promotion of any particular MBA program or institution of higher learning. It is merely a chronicle of my own personal experience as a new MBA student and a visioning of how managers like you and me can and should continue to take the leap into developing our own skill sets and designing our own futures.
Brandi Vigil, graduate student at California State University, in Sacramento wrote:
“No matter the program or the school, a graduate student never fully knows what to expect when entering their first year of graduate school. The only things guaranteed throughout that first year are syllabi, an array of assignments, and the need for adjustments. After recently completing my first year of graduate school in May, the one word I would use to describe it is chaotic-I am sure many others would agree. I know my fellow classmates would. Although those 20 page research papers, mid-terms, and finals contributed to my chaotic first year, working full time contributed the rest” (Western Criminologist; Sep2008, p6).
I was very anxious to get started with my MBA degree. There is no greater motivation than that which comes from within. I knew my goals, and was not about to allow my limitations to be the cause of failure. I had a plan – I would take classes that coincide with the planning and execution work that I am doing to take my business to the next level. It’s all about aligning efforts to maximize efficiency and ensuring that everything works seamlessly. It’s also about eliminating the duplication of efforts and becoming more effective much more quickly. That was my plan. Brilliant right? Well, the reality is, life happens. As Brandi Vigil states, you never know what you have gotten yourself into until you have started! Trying to run a business, take care of a family and now going to school is not a piece of cake. Being the time-management advocate that I am, I immediately decorated my outlook calendar with colorful boxes representing the time-blocks of activities that would make up my day. I knew going in that there would be a lot of maneuvering of schedules and activities and that I would need to be quite disciplined in order to keep everything afloat. The calendar became my best friend, but I was soon to find out, school became my new demanding boss!
Regardless of where you are taking your classes, be they online or in a traditional classroom setting, conscientious students find themselves ‘attending class’ every day! There are readings, assignments, tutorials, team/group work, papers, research… need I say more? Furthermore most days you will be ‘in-class’ for two, three, four hours at a time. This is not a hidden requirement by any means, but students who are trying to increase their knowledge and grow professionally will find themselves spending a lot of time on the school stuff.
In her article, Brandi Vigil makes a poignant point. She states: “problems can arise when both [work and education] demand high levels of dedication, but time does not allow. What takes precedence, one’s job or education? This is a dilemma that almost all graduate students, who are also employees, face daily” (Western Criminologist; Sep2008, p6). So our question is, how do we as managers overcome this dilemma?
In earlier time-management posts I have heralded the virtue and value of a calendar. Time management is critical for success. It takes careful planning and the calendar is one of the best tools to help you do that. Managing your time is all about making sure new stuff you have to do fit into your schedule. Often times, people tend to add the new stuff on-top-of their other responsibilities. But careful planning allows you to prioritize and place tasks and responsibilities appropriately to make your day more manageable. If you’re not already using a calendar, agenda or some type of time management device, it will be a good idea to start doing so. There are many applications that are free and adequate such as Hotmail and Gmail and the hundreds of mobile apps that are the trend in today’s Smartphone driven environment.
Many organizations expect their professionals to take charge of their own development. The Personal Development (PDP) is a part of many organizations’ performance management process. How are you putting your PDP to work for you? What are your personal goals for your own professional development? What are your career aspirations? Do you plan on running your own small business one day? Or do you plan to sit in the CEO chair at one of the world’s mega corporations? What is your intrinsic motivation? How you answer these questions will determine your readiness and ability to commit to the demands of attending school while working. Here is a reality you will not be able to escape: if you’ve been thinking about going back to school, there is no time like the present. No matter how long you put it off, the time to do it will always be a concern.
Whatever your answers the questions above, one thing is certain. If managers are to remain competitive, we must compete for opportunities to develop. Competition is tough. The job, the family, other responsibilities are all competing for time and attention. Why not add school? If you keep putting it off are you prepared to deal with the consequences and disappointments of unrealized dreams and untapped potential? Take it from one who put off pursuing this degree for almost ten years. Yes, that’s right. I tried my best to find a convenient time to pursue the MBA. The convenience never availed itself. Instead I was faced with a decision-making cross-road. Either take that step toward my goal of successful business ownership, or put on the blindfolds and take stabs in the dark hoping to hit the moving targets. Yes, life is hectic, and sometimes things get shifted around, rescheduled and reprioritized. But ultimately I am in control. This is my future, my destiny, my journey. Will I see you along the way? Will we have a chance to cheer each other on?
Vigil, B. (2008, September). Double Shift: Graduate Student and Employee. Western Criminologist, pp. 6-7. Retrieved from SocINDEX with Full Text database. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=35725780&site=ehost-live