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5 Tips on How to Manage School, Work and Life (without going crazy)

04/28/2016 8:46 PM | Elaine Turner (Administrator)

By Featured Guest Blogger Suzanne Wagner, CPLP, ATD EPA VP of Technology

For the past 5 years I balanced working full time with two hours of commuting a day, achieving a professional certification, earning a Master’s degree, volunteering, and getting married, moving and starting a family.  Have you considered going back to school or attaining a certification for your own professional development and wondered how you’d manage it all?  I’m living proof that you can balance all of these activities without going crazy, and here are my top 5 Tips on How to Manage School, Work and Life (without going crazy).

1. Just do it!  

Instead of talking about what you want to do, or are planning on doing later, actually go do it - apply to the dream school of your choice, or that amazing job you’ve always thought would be so cool, or whatever your own goal is.  It really is that simple.  Commit to your goal and make it public.  Knowing that others will ask you how well you are achieving your goal is an amazing motivator.


How I Did It:  I achieved my CPLP credential (Certified Professional in Learning and Performance) and used that to obtain a new job at a company that was willing to provide tuition reimbursement for the M.S. degree in Instructional Technology Management that I wanted.  Seriously folks, you CAN do this!

2. Know your deadlines and meet them.

What is the one thing you need to get done today?  This hour?  This minute?  Do whatever needs to be done NOW and worry about the rest later. Better yet, don’t worry about it at all, because things have a way of getting done when push comes to shove.  It’s amazing how efficient you can be when you need to get something done, so figure out what you need to do and...well, back to tip #1, just do it!  

How I Did It:  I responded to critical inquires at work and delivered promised projects on time.  For everything else I followed up and kept colleagues informed as to when they could expect a result.  For school, I worked to whatever assignment was due next and left it at that.  There is only so much time in a day, so get done what you have to and the rest will take care of itself or can wait.  

3. Put your family first.  

So why wasn’t this tip #1 on this list?  Well, that’s my point exactly.  You will undoubtedly be busy if you pursue professional development on top of work and life, so make sure family comes first.  On a daily basis be sure to ask yourself if you are managing the balance of work, professional development and life well.  If not, ask for forgiveness, adjust and re-group.  

How I Did It:  When I got busy I realized that I sometimes neglected those I love the most what with all of the demands and commitments I was juggling.  So I made a commitment to myself and them that I would never work on work while at home and would never do homework until everyone was asleep.  As a result, I had to reduce my coursework schedule to one class a semester.  While it was painful to calculate how this pushed back my graduation date, it was the right decision for me and those I love, and I still was able to achieve my goal.  

4. Ask for help and use your downtime.

You are never rowing alone in this world, so be sure and ask those who can help to do so.  Why go it alone when you probably have an incredible network of family, friends, colleagues, fellow students and others who are more than willing to help?  Not only can these resources further inspire you with their ideas and contributions to your goals, but you’ll also deepen your relationship to them.  Reach out and get the support you need to help get you through the challenges you’ll inevitably face as you attempt to achieve your goal.  Don’t forget to help yourself by putting your own downtime to good use too.  Stuck in traffic or the checkout line?  Use those gifts of time productively to chip away at your goal and think through your next action step or how you’ll overcome an obstacle you’ve been encountering.  

Photo by Roberto Nickson

How I Did It:  I relentlessly worked whenever I could - on an airplane while my baby slept, on my Smartphone while waiting for a webinar to start, and while waiting at the car wash.  I bounced ideas for projects off of friends and former classmates, I asked my husband to proofread papers, I requested that other volunteers help with tasks on busy weeks.  I made sure I helped myself and also relied on my network to pull me through when I needed it.

5. Give back and say thank you.

You may think that you won’t have time to volunteer and give back if you are working and pursuing professional development, but quite the contrary is true.  You will gain invaluable skills and relationships beyond what you can imagine, which will only enrich your life and professional development experience.  Think back to tip #4 and who you’d ask for help.  Make a mental note of who these people are because they are likely the ones you are going to need to thank in the future once you achieve your professional development goal!

Photo by Matt Jones

How I Did It:  I volunteer with the ATD Eastern PA chapter and have gained as much as I have given - from technical skills learned to professional relationships formed, I have never been more fulfilled than when serving others.  It also benefitted me in that it helped me maintain my professional certification, so the reciprocal nature of giving is ever present and reminds me to express my thanks.  As the recipient of three generous scholarships in my lifetime (To the student members out there - have you considered applying for ATD’s scholarships?), I volunteer as a way to repay the investment that someone else made in me.

I hope my 5 Tips on How to Manage School, Work and Life inspires you to accomplish your own professional development goals and what you want in life.  Do not let your fears of taking on another responsibility stop you from achieving your dreams.  I am an average person of average means who is now exceptionally happy that I managed work, school, and life without going crazy as I pursued my professional development goals!  What are YOU waiting for?

Please share your tips in the comment section below and tell me what YOU want to achieve or what you have achieved already and how you did it! 

Photo by Jared Frondu

More about featured guest blogger, Suzanne Wagner, CPLP, ATD EPA VP of Technology

Suzanne is a CPLP who works in human resources and learning and development for a global company.  Suzanne became a CPLP in 2011 and will graduate with a Master of Science degree from LaSalle University in Instructional Technology Management in May 2016.  Her future goal is to lead a fully integrated and successful learning and development function for a global company.  She has served as both the VP of Communications and the VP of Technology for ATD EPA.

Connect with Suzanne:  

Email:  suzannewagner6@gmail.com

LinkedIn: ://www.linkedin.com/in/suzannewagner6

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/suzannewagner6


  • 04/29/2016 10:59 AM | Rick Kerner (Administrator)
    Great story and great tips, Suzanne!
    Link  •  Reply
    • 04/29/2016 3:04 PM | Elaine Turner (Administrator)
      Thanks, Rick. You know you are one of those I relied on in #4, so thanks!
      Link  •  Reply
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