Tips for Juggling The Flaming Torches of Work, School and Family

This post is by Liz Martin, an evening MBA Student

Juggling the responsibilities of work, school, and children is a bit like juggling flaming torches at times, but there are more St. Thomas MBA students doing it than you might realize. That was the impetus for The Balance Beam, a series of lectures and workshops for employee-student-parents on campus.

As we waited for the first meeting to start, other mothers and I compared notes on our three-year-olds. Turns out I wasn’t the only parent who thought that we’d made it past the “terrible twos” only to be confronted with the “treacherous threes.”

Career Services’ Maggie Tomas began by inviting a discussion of the term “balance” and asking the group how they felt when they heard the term. We threw out terms like “stressed” and “doing it all.” Heads around the room nodded knowingly as Maggie described her morning of trying to get ready for work while one child grabbed the toothpaste and ran while the other was asking for help.

Personally, I’ve been doing the work/school thing since 2006 and the work/school/mom thing since 2008. And I’m scheduled to graduate in 2015. Yes, I’m on the slow track. But because this has been and will be my life for a while yet, I need to find a way to juggle those flaming torches as well as possible.

I’m looking forward to the next meeting of The Balance Beam. But I also love to share what’s working for me. So in that spirit, here are some of the tools, methods, and lessons I’ve learned so far.

Access everything everywhere.
I have a smart phone and a laptop, and I have 99.9% of my work and school “stuff” in the cloud. That means I can access my phone numbers, my class notes, my papers, my work calendar, my family calendar, my grocery list and my to do list from almost anywhere with an internet connection. To do this, I use Cozi, a free online family organizer for my calendar, shopping lists and to do lists. I use Evernote to capture my class notes and write my papers. I link Evernote to Study Blue so I can study during my bus commute.

I subscribe to David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” methodology. I highly recommend reading his book, but here are some of his key principles:

If it’s on your mind, write it down. Your brain needs to be working on other things, not trying to make sure you remember to stop for milk on your way home from class.

Organize your “to do” lists by context. In other words, by what you can do with the resources available. I have an “@ phone calls” list that might include everything from finding a babysitter to calling my sister to checking in with my project partners. I also have an “@ home” list (things I can only do when I’m home), an “@ errands list”, and an “@ online” list for things I can only do with an internet connection. As a regular bus commuter, I also have a “@ bus” list for light reading and a “to read” list for longer stuff.

Please note, this does not in any way mean that I’m perfect. I’m not. There are plenty of people to ask about that. But these are some things that have worked for me. What tips do you have for keeping organized with a busy work-, family- and school-life? Let us know in the comments.

The next balance beam event is a webinar on Community, Boundaries, and Support Systems, scheduled for March 15 at noon.  Email Graduate Business Career Services if you are interested in participating.