3 Workplace Productivity Hacks for an MBA Student

If you're interested in earning a Master of Business Administration degree, you may be considering getting your degree while continuing to work. Your reasoning might be that consistent employment looks good on your resume, and the income can help with your educational expenses. However, continuing to work while enrolled in school can create unique demands and challenges, and you may find it hard to continue both, if you’re not careful.

Luckily, an online degree adds flexibility to your educational goals, allowing you to study and attend classes on your schedule. This way, you won't have to sacrifice days in the office for time in a classroom. The Washington State University Carson College of Business offers an online MBA program that can be completed in as few as 22-29 months, allowing you to pursue your job goals quickly.

As you pursue both your education and your career, you may find you need a little additional help staying productive and fulfilling all of your obligations at work. Here are some hacks to try next time you're in the office:

1. Stay Organized throughout the Day

Organization is one of the major keys to productivity. Without it, you'll spend a lot of unnecessary time setting reminders, attending to busy work, and getting distracted.

To start improving your daily organization, track the time you spend on specific tasks. Once you have that information, delegate a certain allotment of time to each assignment, and do all you can to prevent yourself from going over. Setting micro-deadlines in this way helps you make the most of the time set for each objective.

To help keep your micro-deadlines on track, one classic time management method is the Pomodoro Technique. Named after the tomato-shaped kitchen gadget, this strategy breaks your workday into intervals ranging from 20 to 30 minutes using the following format:

  • Choose a task to work on.
  • Set your timer for the specified number of minutes.
  • Work on the task until the timer rings.
  • When your time is up, put a checkmark on a piece of paper and take a 5-minute break.
  • Repeat until you have 4 checkmarks, at which point you can break for 15 to 30 minutes.

Breaking your day into shorter segments helps the time pass faster while keeping you focused. It also forces you to take a proactive approach to your workday, rather than periodically having your focus pulled away from your work. Responding to numerous small distractions like email notifications and news alerts compromises your time management efforts. As the Harvard Business Review noted, this phenomenon is why it's often harder for people to work in an open office rather than a coffee shop. It's easy to let a co-worker’s conversation distract you when you're in an open desk setting. In a coffee shop, however, you're less likely to pay attention to a stranger's chatter.

To reduce the number of distractions throughout your day, turn off notifications on your computer and phone. Instead, schedule time to check your email, messages, and the news in your use of the Pomodoro Technique. Designating 2 to 3 email-check sessions per day should keep you caught up without sacrificing your concentration.

Finally, avoid unnecessary meetings. Not only can they be a waste of time, but also they interrupt your focus, making you less productive at accomplishing other tasks. Use email instead whenever possible, and save scheduled meetings for issues of high importance.

The Pomodoro Technique is an effective time-management strategy.

2. Take Advantage of Downtime

As a working student, your days may be completely filled with school and work. This reality means your downtime is more critical than ever. While it's important to delegate time each day to rest, you can take advantage of short moments that would otherwise be filled with distractions.

For example, if you commute to work via public transportation, use this time to send emails or study. Take your tablet to the gym and review reports while on the treadmill, or go through your notes as you cook dinner.

Also, while you're at work, try to note occurrences that reflect what you've studied in school. For example, you may notice a peer using a specific management technique or find a real-world example of a certain accounting concept. Making note of these episodes can help you memorize the materials you study as part of your coursework.

On the other hand, if you're getting an MBA to switch careers and know the specific area of business you plan to enter, read industry magazines and newsletters when you have a spare minute. Doing so can help you stay abreast of what's happening in that particular field.

To choose your publications wisely, it helps to know what you’ll focus your studies on. The Carson College offers 4 specific concentrations for its online MBA program: marketing, finance, hospitality business management, and international business. If you're a current or prospective student, the following industry publications may help you throughout your studies:

  • Marketing: The American Marketing Association’s publications, AdAge
  • Finance: ABA Banking Journal, the Federal Reserve Board’s publications, Trade Finance magazine, World Bank Economic Review
  • Hospitality business management: Hotel Business, Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management
  • International business: Bloomberg Businessweek, International Business Times, the Economist

If you're interested in earning an online MBA without a specific concentration, you can enroll in the Carson College's general track. With this option, you can pick any 3 electives that spark your interest. Relevant publications include Fast Company, Fortune, and Forbes Magazine.

3. Take Care of Your Body

Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is one of the most efficient ways to improve and maintain your work capacity. Although you may be consistently busy as a working student, you should still prioritize rest and relaxation. Scheduling time for yourself lets your body and mind recharge and boosts your mental acuity when it's time to get back to work.

Start by making sure you get enough sleep at night; this is one of the easiest and most effective steps you can take to boost productivity. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lost productivity resulting from sleep deprivation alone costs U.S. businesses $63.2 billion each year. Sleeping for 6 hours per night is recommended, although specific needs vary between individuals. Benefits of a good night's rest include:

  • Better decision making. Sleep increases your ability to make quick judgments by about 4 percent.
  • Stronger memory. Sleep improves both your current focus and later recall.
  • Quicker recovery. A night of rest helps you regain focus after interruptions, such as meetings and conversations with co-workers.

With a full night of sleep behind you, increase your productivity efforts by taking regular breaks throughout the workday. Try to incorporate physical activity while enjoying this downtime. For example, during your Pomodoro break sessions, walk around the office or do some desk stretches. The physical movement helps deliver oxygen to the brain, maintaining its cognitive functions.

Furthermore, regular physical activity provides similar brain-boosting benefits as sleep. According to Scientific American, aerobic activity helps adults grow new brain cells. In fact, the cognitive benefits of exercise can help you for years to come. The publication performed a 25-year study, reviewing the physical fitness and behaviors of 2,747 healthy adults. It found the people who were more fit at the beginning of the study performed 10 percent better on cognitive tests than those who were less fit.

Sleep is vital for maintaining productivity.

Balancing School and Work as a Student at the Carson College

Earning an MBA while continuing to work is an admirable goal, but you may find it hard to maintain your studies and your job. Enrolling in the Carson College's online MBA program can help. You can complete your course load entirely at your own pace, finishing your degree in as few as 22–29 months if you wish. What's more, you can immediately apply the business concepts learned in class to your work environment.

You also won’t be tied to a campus location if work requires you to travel. One of the benefits of the entirely online curriculum is that you can complete your assignments from anywhere in the world. So, if you often travel for business or work remotely, you're never separated from the school.

In addition, the Carson College offers a number of ways to supplement your education while you work. The college has an extensive library of online resources, including articles, videos, and webinars, to assist with your education. Furthermore, as an MBA student, you'll have the option to participate in an international field study. The trip includes a 10-day tour of Asia and allows you to gain first-hand knowledge of international business matters. You'll also have the opportunity to network with your peers and visit important cultural landmarks.

Although attending school while employed may necessitate more organization and less free time on your part, the benefits may prove worth it. An advanced degree increases your chances of employment; according to the Graduate Management Admission Council, 86 percent of employers planned to hire MBA graduates in 2017, up from 79 percent in 2016. In addition, 52 percent of these companies said they plan to increase annual starting salaries for MBA graduates at or above the rate of inflation. Not only can an advanced degree help you get a promotion or a new job, but also the hard and soft skills you can acquire are transferable to a number of different industries. These benefits are worth the additional organization necessary to continue working while studying at the Carson College of Business.

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