Tips on staying happy, healthy, and productive while getting a master's degree.

The thought of going back to school while working full time can make anyone break out in a cold sweat, but with proper planning and preparation, none of the important facets of your life will founder. As someone who is what is known as a "working grad student," I had to re-evaluate my schedule in order to accommodate schoolwork, a full-time job and time for myself. While daunting at first, it made me realize how many time-wasting entities were in my life and it gave me the excuse to kick useless things to the curb. As a result, I can evenly carve out time to benefit my job, degree, and life.

Make a Schedule

However you choose to do so, it often helps to have a visible schedule for you to refer to at a moment's notice. Creating a Google calendar with blocked off dates and times for work, school and homework can show you where you can make room for a night out or a weekend away. It also helps to keep in mind when birthdays, baptisms, weddings and baby showers are looming so you can plan a lunch break spent shopping for gifts.

Talk to Your Boss and Coworkers

Your employer should be delighted that you're going back to school and investing in yourself. Have a conversation with your supervisor and those you work closely with and be transparent about your new situation. Articulate that your time is not going to be as flexible as it once was and any and all post-work events or out-of-the-blue requests for extra work on projects that don't concern you have no business anywhere near your desk.

Learn to Say "No"

"Hey, Laura, can you watch my kid this Saturday?" 

"No."

"Hey, Laura, want to take a spontaneous trip abroad for a week?"

"No."

"Hey, Laura, want to go on a blind date with this guy who is definitely not your type but is looooaded?"

"No."

"Would you like to learn more about The Watchtower?"

*slowly closes door*

As much as I'd like to say yes to things, especially a spur-of-the-moment trip, part of budgeting your time involves a polite decline to events that can get in the way of getting your schoolwork done. Besides, having an excuse to say no to things you especially don't want to do is always a plus.

Don't Overload on Coursework

I purposefully planned on only doing one course per quarter in order to ensure no key areas of my life suffered. Don't be a hero, the degree will get done when it gets done.

Get Your Sleep

Seven to eight hours a night, no argument. You're of no use to anyone if you're sleep deprived.

Plan Your Meals

Whether it's sticking to meal-replacement shakes or throwing ingredients in a crockpot, having a ready-made dinner all set when you get home saves hours on preparation throughout the week when it's academic crunch time.

Outsource Your Errands

By using Amazon's Prime Now app, I can restock my fridge and pantry by having someone else do it. Select times, set delivery time and done. No time for wandering around King Soopers and being tempted with other items I don't need in the store, I can do homework or other household chores while I wait for delivery. If you have prescription medications, see if you can arrange for them to mail your meds to you instead of having to wait in line at a pharmacy.

Have Dedicated Days for Family, Friends, and Dates

Being in school doesn't mean your relationships should suffer. If anything, it's a relief to know you have a support system of loved ones who know that you're bettering yourself. Have certain days dedicated to outings, lunches or movie nights and keep the books out of mind. For those that wander into your life and aren't on board with your current life situation, step aside and show them the door. Time-wasting individuals are not welcome here! 

Exercise

45 minutes of cardio or weight training four to five times a week help burn off stress and calories and generate those wonderful, feel-good endorphins. The healthier you are, the less likely you'll be to take off a sick day from work or school.

Make Time for Self-Care

No matter if it's a bubble bath, breathing exercises, watching trash television or getting a spa pedicure, however you define self-care is entirely up to you. In the everyday rat race, we are so consumed with servicing those around us but saving ourselves for last. For an hour or two once a week, do exactly what you and only you want to do. 

Grad school is temporary, but work and life commitments are not. The way I look at it, I think of grad school as a visitor that happens to be enjoying an extended stay in my life. Instead of thinking about how much longer I have left before I graduate, I only concern myself with what is happening week by week. So until I receive my diploma, I'm just gonna work on getting what I can get done right now.  

Wondering if you should head back to school? Potential MBA candidates should give this list a look