How to make the most of your Distance Learning MBA

01 April 2020

Distance Learning MBA participant, Alex Chernyi, provides an overview of his MBA experience and shares some useful tips on how to make the most of the programme. 

Remember why you are you doing it

Sounds simple, and you most likely have an idea on why you are studying for an MBA. But my advice is to go further and build it into your personal vision statement. It is an intense and enduring process, so setbacks are inevitable. Having a clearly articulated vision will head up your plan and carry you through the process.

Prepare for the marathon and agree on trade-offs

Unlike the Full-time MBA programme (which is completed in one year), you will have to spend at least two years on the Distance Learning MBA. Quite often, students take an additional year or two to finish it and with work and family commitments along the way, you have to get yourself mentally ready for a long ride. It could be that good planning would allow you to allocate enough time for studying, but most of the time you will have to give up something, whether it is procrastination time in front of the TV, ambitious fitness goals, extra time with friends or family or something else. Decide on your trade-offs, negotiate and agree with those affected (if any) and don’t feel bad about it.

Develop a plan

Develop a granular plan and stick to it. Managing work, family and study commitments will be much easier with a detailed plan, to accommodate family holidays, work peaks and travels, exams, assignment and Warwick Weeks. Naturally, the Distance Learning programme is chunked into smaller pieces, so you will have milestones that could help you track progress. Don’t forget to celebrate those small wins every time you accomplish something or submit an assignment.

…and a routine

Everyone has their own routine that works for them, so know yours! It will help you develop a habit and get the stress out of the way. I studied six days a week – before work each day and between three to five hours after work. That schedule allowed me to stay on track without falling behind. For me, intermittent and regular practice is certainly a more effective way to learn new things than a stacked practice before an assignment or exam.

Don’t balance - Integrate

Balancing work, life, family and study is difficult. Integrate where possible: apply study material at work, discuss and debate it with colleagues or family members, or take a work case for an assignment ride. Build your cheerleading team both at work and at home. You will have your fellow students and group members to support you, but you will still spend most of the time at work and at home, so it is important to have support there too.

Eat well, exercise and don’t forget to sleep

There is a great temptation to trade-off healthy eating, a few hours of sleep or exercise for extra time with books, course materials or your family members to compensate for study time. It is a trap. You need your brain and body functioning at its best during this journey, so shortcutting exercise, diet or most critically sleep may have the opposite effect. Try meditations, allocate time off from study or work when you can allow yourself not to be occupied with things, so you can unwind, relax and reflect. I had most of my Sundays during the year purposefully cleared from work or studies.

Don’t let stumbles derail you – ask for help when needed

The Warwick MBA is a very demanding journey; you will inevitably come across something you don’t know or have no experience with. You may struggle or even fail, which is okay and it only means that you are learning and growing. Don’t let those stumbles get into your head. Reach out to other students for help and advice, perhaps even minor tutoring and don’t forget about mentors and coaches, whether through WBS services, work or independently. I believe it is the perfect time to have someone helping you deal with growing uncertainty and guide through the complexity.

Enjoy and have fun

The MBA is not worth it if you do not enjoy it. There is no sense putting a lot of money, time, and effort over such a long period if you are not having fun. You may get frustrated and perhaps even think about quitting. Know what distracts you and intentionally get rid of it. Help others, which is a very enriching and stimulating activity.

Always thought you are bad at maths? Are you afraid of public speaking? Do you get uncomfortable in a group setting? There is no such thing as being bad at something and it is not what we learn but how we do it that matters. Give it another try, approach it with an open mind and change your attitude to it. Think about it as if you were adding superpowers to your arsenal: adjust your learning to your personal style, take things slowly or take some extra basics “… for dummies” textbooks if needed and ask for help. Be patient, persistent and you will be rewarded with new knowledge, new skills and new friends.

Find out more about the Distance Learning MBA