Executive Diploma in Behavioural Science participant, Sean O'Shea, shares his advice for anyone considering returning to education.
After enjoying being immersed in the world of work for more than a decade since completing my bachelor’s degree, I was a bit apprehensive about dedicating my personal time to studying again, especially while working full time. However, I was ready for a challenge and I knew the Executive Diploma in Digital Leadership was the course for me. It offered interesting and relevant topics and the duration of one year seemed very achievable.
The programme design is excellent for busy professionals as it concentrates the in-person teaching into four modules, which makes it easier to manage time out of the office and personal commitments. Additionally, I personally find this approach more energising than alternative options such as evening classes.
After assuming I could put aside any other big changes for just one year, life decided to offer some extra opportunities and challenges. A ‘project’ house I had wanted to buy came back on the market and the opportunity to apply for a promotion in a new area of the business also arose early on in the course. Of course, I could not refuse either. These fantastic opportunities, alongside some unplanned personal challenges meant my year became much busier than I had ever anticipated. I have never had such an intense challenge in time management and therefore I wanted to share my top tips, having successfully navigated through it.
My top 5 tips for fitting in study alongside work (and everything else) are:
Do pre-work before starting the course. If, like me, you are used to thinking and writing in a ‘business operations’ style, take some time to refocus on academia and what is expected of you in terms of writing style. WBS has brilliant online resources about academic writing. This will help you to get a head start and save precious time during the first module assignments.
When completing the assignments, construct the outline first and then book in short bursts of focused time to write each section. Start your morning an hour earlier, pick an evening to set aside or ring fence a time slot on a weekend. Breaking the assignments into sections and writing smaller portions at a time makes it feel more manageable and less impactful to your personal time.
Use the assignments to solve (or work towards solving) real business challenges. Although it might seem obvious, there can be a temptation to choose a topic completely removed from your day-to-day. While this can be useful to gain breadth of knowledge into different industries, using the assignments for real business problems will make you more efficient and enable you to gain immediate value from the course through practical application.
Ask for help. My amazing support network of family, friends, colleagues, the WBS team and fellow coursemates all helped in different ways. From emotional support, to practical advice about time management and finding interesting reading materials, everyone wanted me to succeed and were a huge help in overcoming challenges.
No matter how busy you are, make time for good quality downtime. It can’t be all work and no play. I would strongly encourage carving out time to spend with loved ones and to enjoy your hobbies. Resting and recharging will also give your brain time to absorb all the wonderful knowledge and get the creative juices flowing again for the next module.
I am a strong believer that you can do anything you put your mind to, so I would invite you to push out of your comfort zone and grow in ways you never expected. Digital is an area that will increasingly impact all of us as leaders, so why not get ahead of the curve?