The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: work life balance

5 ways to turn a loud home into a quiet study space

As an online student, it can be tricky to find the right place study  particularly if you’re someone who prefers a quiet work-space. If roommates, children, or even a busy street make it challenging for you to find a quiet study environment at home, we’ve got some tips for you!

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How to be a Productive Online Student

Online master’s degrees at accredited universities have become increasingly popular over recent years. Many programs, like the ones offered at Brandeis GPS, cater to professionals who are working full time and are seeking a degree to move the needle on their career. Truly asynchronous programs – where students aren’t required to log into a class at a certain time – allow students to set their own schedule when it comes to their academic study.  But for some online learners, the lack of structure can be a challenge. Below are some tips to help you achieve the perfect work-life-school balance while pursuing an online degree.

Schedule Your Time
Schedule your school time just like you would schedule an appointment or meeting. Consistency can be key. And don’t forget to get creative with your study time. Have a long train ride as part of your commute? Take care of your weekly readings while you ride. Drive to work? See if your text book has an audio version and listen in the car. Find a regular time to do your coursework, and soon it will become a part of your daily routine.

Find Your Place of Productivity
Ask yourself when you are most productive. Perhaps it’s on that long train ride where you easily focus. Are you most productive on Sunday afternoons while sitting in your local library? Do you enjoy staying in your pajamas and doing work from your kitchen table? There is no right answer as everyone has different zones of productivity. Make sure the space where you want to work is available and distraction-free in advance. You will get everything done a lot faster if you go in knowing this is your time and place for coursework.

Take a Break
If you have an assignment deadline approaching, you may be tempted to come home after a long day of work and open your computer to get your schoolwork done as quickly as you can. Don’t do that – you want to put your best foot forward! Separate your job from your coursework, take some time to relax, go to the gym, or eat a snack. Keep your brain power focused on what you’re doing so you can achieve results that make you proud.

Participate and Stay Engaged
In an online classroom, it is easy to keep quiet and only participate when necessary. Don’t take that approach: you’re here to learn, after all! Schools like GPS intentionally offer small classes to foster engagement and collaboration among your peers and instructors.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to be a productive online student, and don’t forget to reach out to your advisor or instructor for guidance.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

Army Reservist shares his GPS experience in his own words

Faces of GPS | Steve Boardman

In 2014, I was in pursuit of a career plan for the next 20 years of my life and chose to leverage my IT experience as a software developer to shift into consulting as a business intelligence and big data analytics expert. In search of a graduate program to help propel me into that evolving field, I spent more than 100 hours researching many data science and analytics degree options.Boardman Military - Brandeis GPS Online Education - Brandeis GPS Blog

I found the Master of Science in Strategic Analytics at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies (GPS) to be the best fit for my life situation for many reasons:

  • The core curriculum and available electives seemed to be a well-balanced mix of business application, management, and technical disciplines.
  • The industry-experienced GPS faculty was a benefit because it enhanced my learning based on my prior undergraduate experience.
  • As an Army Reservist, the ability to conduct coursework online is an essential benefit. Moreover, the 10-week terms with a significant break between them promote a good work, school, and life balance, enabling students to complete the program in only 2 and a half years,  taking one course at a time.
  • The tuition fees were lower than other competing schools, and would be covered by my Post-9/11 GI Bill® VA benefits by 90 percent.

Since I started the Strategic Analytics program with GPS in spring 2015, I have completed seven courses toward my degree thus far and plan to graduate in the summer of 2017. Much of the knowledge that I’ve gained from the coursework has been directly applicable to my current position as an archival data systems development consultant. From what I’ve learned, I’ve been able to conduct more focused data analysis and produce more meaningful results to management, which has helped me earn their confidence and trust. As a result, I was given the lead role in spearheading my client’s business intelligence and data management strategy for analytics in September 2015. My return on investment is being realized even before completing my degree requirements.

Boardman Military 2 - Brandeis GPS Online Education - Brandeis GPS BlogCharging through the academic rigors of the program’s coursework and research has been achievable without a major sacrifice from family time and other activities. Living and working in Charleston, SC, with my wife and five-year-old daughter, my evenings during the week and weekends are well-balanced. Not every evening is spent doing school work, which my wife is very happy about. While taking at least one course per term, I am able to work a challenging full-time IT job, lead a platoon size unit in the Army Reserve part-time, play drums in a professional local rock band, and spend plenty of quality time with my family. I am grateful to my employer who pays for my remaining 10 percent tuition out of pocket. Now that GPS offers a 15% discount on tuition for active military and veterans, that saves my employer and the VA around $500 per course. Choosing the MS in Strategic Analytics at GPS was one of my best decisions, as it has proven to better my quality of life.

Steve Boardman is a software development professional with over 20 years of experience providing leadership in developing IT solutions for a variety of industries. He specializes in Enterprise Architecture (EA), Business Intelligence (BI) Strategy, Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) Implementation, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Systems Integration, Application Development, and Legacy System Migration.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Find more Faces of GPS stories here.

How to Stay Balanced

Written by: Scarlett Huck

Do you find yourself struggling to balance your career and your academics? Maybe you work a full time job and would like to return to school but are unsure of how to do so. Or perhaps you are enrolled in school while also focusing on your career, leaving you in with an overwhelming state of stress. While it may seem impossible, there are ways to balance your life. Take a deep breath and follow these easy steps!

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Communicate. This can help on a number of levels. If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone: a colleague, a friend or a family member. Two brains are always better than one at problem solving! Often, simply talking about your problems reduces your stress level. Communication is also important between you, your job and your education. For instance, if you are working a full time job but are interested in returning to school, meet with your boss. With clear communication, your boss can even see this as beneficial.

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Plan your finances. A large concern about school is the fiscal responsibility. While the price tag may seem intimidating, there are practical ways to pay off the bills. One of the easiest ways is to speak to your employer. Often companies reimburse their employees tuition in order to have well-educated, more qualified workers. You are not limited there, you can also apply for scholarships (often merit-based) or work for the school in your free time. Brandeis GPS also offers employers tuition discounts! This can be very helpful when looking to get an affordable degree.

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Disconnect. Yes, we are all living in the 21st century and this means we are constantly glued to our smartphones, tablets and laptops. This instills a sense of easy accessibility and contributes to the amount of time we spend on our devices. While this ease of access is great for work and school, attempt to minimize their use in your free time. Notifications are not easily ignored, adding a sense of stress to a non-work or school environment. Turn off your devices and enjoy what is happening; emails and texts can wait.

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Stay Healthy. Your body is your friend and you need to take care of it. It is easy to say you are too busy, you don’t have time to exercise or cook a healthy dinner. However, busy people have a tendency to drive their bodies (and therefore their immune systems) into the ground. Waking up early, spending a day stressing, running around, drinking infinite cups of coffee and staying up late just to wake up and do it all over again causes a strain on your body. Make time for a few stress-relieving exercises and stretches, find quick recipes for healthy food in a hurry to keep your body running strong and make getting enough sleep a priority. Pay attention to your health and keep in mind that it is much more difficult to be efficient once you’re sick!

With these tips in mind, you are ready to balance your life! Be sure to check out Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies to see if our online courses could be a good fit for you. We offer rolling admissions and flexible programs to fit your busy schedule!

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Are You Running from Problems or Solving Them?

By: Johanna Rothman

Originally from: http://www.jrothman.com/blog/mpd/2014/05/are-you-running-from-problems-or-solving-them.html

Back when I was a manager inside organizations, I had many days that looked like this:

  • Meetings at 9am, 10am, 11am.
  • Working meeting through lunch (noon-1pm)
  • Meetings at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm.

I finally got a chance to check my email at 4pm. That’s when I discovered the world had blown up earlier in the day! (This is before cell phones. Yes, there was a time before cell phones.)

resource-schedulingI then ran around like a chicken with my head cut off until I left work at 5:30pm, because, yes, I had a family, and, yes, I had to leave at 5:30pm. I either made dinner or picked up children, depending on my agreement with Mark.

We did the family stuff until 8pm, and when the kids went to sleep, I went back to work.

No wonder I was exhausted. My decision-making sometimes suffered, too. No surprise there.

Luckily, I had some days that did not look like this. I could solve the problems I encountered. And, some of these meetings were problem-solving meetings.

However, I had jobs where my senior managers did not manage their project portfolios, and we had many crises du jour. My VP would try to catch me on the way to my next meeting, and attempt to get me to “commit” to when a patch would be available or when we would start, or finish a project.

I swear, one of my VP’s used to know when I went to the ladies’ room. He did yell at me through the door, just as in this management myth.

I finally put my foot down, and said I was no longer going to meetings that weren’t problem solving meetings. Have you read the chapter about meetings in Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management? I wrote it for project managers and for ProjectManagement_03managers who run around like the proverbial chickens. I wrote Manage Your Project Portfolio for managers like me who had well-meaning senior managers who had trouble making decisions about which projects to do.

This management myth is something I see often in organizations. This one is the one where people are running around so often they don’t actually solve problems.

Many problems are a combination of several problems. You might have to separate the problems and attack them in sequence. But, you might have to see the whole first, because there might be delays. The overarching problem is this: if you don’t give yourself enough time as a problem solving team, you can’t tell what the problem is. If you can’t tell what the problem is, you can’t solve it.

Problem solving tends to go through the process of:

  • Problem definition: What do we think the problem is?
  • Problem discussion: Let’s get all the divergent ideas on the table. Brainstorm, whatever we need to do.
  • Select a solution: Converge on a solution, trying out the ideas, understanding the results of each potential solution
  • Determine an action plan, with dates and people’s names associated with each step

Your problem solving might vary from this a bit, but that’s the general idea.

If you never give yourself enough time to solve problems because you’re always running around, how can you solve problems? It’s a problem. (Like the recursion there?)

That’s this month’s management myth, I Can Concentrate on the Run. Maybe your myth is that you can concentrate in a 10-minute standup. Maybe your myth is that you can concentrate on your drive into work. You might be able to, for some problems. Complex management problems require more than one person to solve them. They require more than a few minutes thought.

How do you solve complex problems in your organization? Do the problems run around the organization for a while? Or, do you solve them?

Johanna Rothman

My Student Experience

by: Daniel Mongeon

Twenty-three years.  That’s the length of time that has eclipsed since I last enrolled in a “for credit” course.  I earned my undergrad at that time and never looked back, until recently.  I had been contemplating taking a course for both professional development and as a possible gateway to applying to a Masters program, but I didn’t really want to do it.

My two sons are 5 and 3.  Seeing them when I arrive home from work is the best part of my day, but it’s still stepping from one job to another.  The second best part of my day is when they’re tucked into bed and I can indulge in some “me” time.  I guard that “me” time jealously and I didn’t want to have my vigorous schedule of TV and reading interrupted by coursework.  Thankfully, my wife and my mother, an educator, wouldn’t allow me to rest on my laurels and I enrolled in RCOM 102 Professional Communications for the Spring 2014 term.

As the opening day for GPS courses approached, my dread increased but I tamped those program-hero-itm1feelings down with hollow sounding (to me) platitudes about “stepping outside of one’s comfort zone” and prepared for the 10 weeks to follow.  After reading through my syllabus and posting my initial introduction, I mapped out a schedule that seemed doable.  Wednesday would be my day for required readings.  Thursday would be for researching and posting my response to my instructor’s discussion post.  Friday would be for working on assignments and responding to posts by my classmates.  Saturday would be a day off, a break from schoolwork.  Sunday, Monday and Tuesday would be for completion of any tasks that needed to be wrapped up by the end of the course week.

It was a good plan, but what is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men?  Right.  Life happens.  Sometimes a buddy I hadn’t seen in a while would only have Wednesday night free to hang out.  Perhaps I had a commitment on Friday.  There was that wedding to attend in Brooklyn on the weekend of Week 8.  There were times that I just couldn’t wrap my head around getting my work done and would stare at my computer screen, trying to will an idea to pop into my head.

skills-pmpI got through it, however.  Mores to the point, I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed reading posts from other students and constructing a decent response.  Through the research I had to do for my discussion posts and assignments, I learned things that could assist me in not only my job but my day to day life.  Our instructor was excellent at keeping our discussions moving if they bogged down. I found satisfaction in logging in to the class and seeing if there were any responses to what I had posted.  Getting my grades back and reading my instructor’s feedback pushed me to shore up the areas that needed strengthening.

Mostly, I found that stepping outside of my comfort zone wasn’t just an empty platitude; it was a way of “exercising” unused mental faculties and coming out the other side having discovered that I have the capacity to fit more education into my hectic life.  I found that you can come to like something you initially dreaded.

I got an ‘A’ in the course and plan to continue my studies. Although for now, I have some Red Sox games to enjoy, an instructional baseball team to coach and waves to catch.  See you in class.

About the Author:

Daniel Mongeon is a Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Student Advisor. He has been with GPS for over 3 years and knows all there is to know about your student experience. He is a graduate from Emerson College and loves to surf, watch the sox and spend time with his family.

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