Tips for Success in Balancing Work, Life, and Grad School

Father Working At Home With Young Daughter

We know how challenging it can be to balance work, life, and grad school, even when a program is 100% online and designed for the working professional. We asked our MS in Project Management faculty and graduates to share their advice on time management strategies, as well as helpful tips for planning and prioritizing your coursework.

Pursuing a master’s degree is challenging, but our experts have you covered. Their practical insights will guide you on ways to be more successful from day one of the program.

“A tip I have tried to follow is the concept of double-dipping. I try to find ways for activities to hit more than one area of your life (i.e. mix school and work). For example, my day job knows I teach. As such, when they have PM topics they would like to reinforce, I’m called in as the trainer. The time I spend preparing helps at both work and school. Is there a project at work that might leverage your coursework? Make sure your boss is aware!”
Michael Faia, MSPM Faculty

“As Project Managers, time is our most important stakeholder. The one variable we can control is our time and where it’s spent. My advice would be to go back to the basics: (1) Create a calendar, (2) Map out your routine, (3) Get a view of where your time is going, and (4) Find spaces throughout your week where you would be able to insert ‘other’ activities, such as school. For me, I carved out specific days/times of the week that I would dedicate to school. I did this knowing that some extracurricular activities would have to drop from my calendar temporarily.”
Ann Campea ‘19   

“Try the Pomodoro Technique! Use a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. The goal of the technique is to reduce the impact of internal and external interruptions on focus and flow.”
Bria White, MSPM Faculty

“Time is a sacred resource that requires constant management to balance needs from competing resources. Some ideas for balancing these demands include: (1) communicate work/school workloads with family members constantly, (2) request a flexible job schedule if your organization has that policy, and (3) create a personal timeline to submit assignments to help balance family-work-school demands and conflicts.”
Emmanuel Umoh, ‘19

“Where possible, plan task times to be twice as long as expected, as the unanticipated often challenges the best of plans. In addition, coordinate and communicate with your loved ones on a regular basis, for they are a support system as you progress through the program.”
Stanley Lewis, MSPM Faculty

“Balancing my graduate studies with full-time employment came down to one thing, routine. My advice  would be to focus on crafting your routine during the first session of classes. Once I had a solid understanding of a session’s cadence, I was able to set a schedule that allowed me to find success in the program. While challenging, there is so much value in completing this program while working. I was able to take my lessons directly into work the next day, allowing me to improve as a project manager in real-time.”
Paul Webster, ‘19

“I recommend using project management techniques in your approach to the coursework. Allocate 12 – 15 hours per week. Realize the week starts on Monday. Review readings and assignments early in the week. Add discussion board due dates to your calendar ahead of time. Look ahead, be proactive and understand the assignment prompt and expectations; view the rubric. Plan to submit assignments in advance of deadlines. A grades are earned for doing what was assigned in superior fashion; not by doing more than was asked.”
Laureen Pfizenmaier, MSPM Faculty 

“Access your courses right when they open, start reading early, come to live sessions and be sure to ask your instructor if you have questions. Set a schedule in outlook with homework reminders…then listen to them. Establish a routine, do not deviate. Keeping the work at a steady rhythm is much easier to manage than working in large blocks.”
Craig Marek, MSPM Faculty

Learn more about the MS in Project Management Program.

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