As our reliance on technology grows, interest in engineering degrees and careers has exploded. According to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, full-time enrollment in Master of Engineering programs increased by 44% between 2020 and 2021. The fastest-growing areas of specialization for graduate students include aerospace engineering and biomedical engineering.1
It’s not hard to understand the appeal of these master’s programs. A graduate degree in engineering can help students with any educational background qualify for many exciting and potentially lucrative careers. However, without the right preparation, earning a Master of Engineering can be stressful and time-consuming. This guide covers essential time management tips for success in your professional career and academic pursuits.
Assess Your Time Commitments
Graduate students often have multiple commitments competing for their attention and time. For instance, you may work full-time while completing your master’s degree online. Other common responsibilities include caring for family members and maintaining healthy relationships with partners.
With a busy schedule, it's essential to evaluate your time commitments by creating a list of your upcoming responsibilities for the semester. Next, estimate how much time each item on your list will take. For example, you might spend 40 hours weekly at your job and 10 hours researching and writing a paper for a class.
This estimate can help you set realistic expectations as you strive to balance work and study. Say you work full-time and spend 20 hours weekly caring for your children. Based on these commitments, you may decide to only take one class per semester so you can dedicate adequate time to studying.
Practice Task Prioritization and Set Goals
Daily to-do lists can assist with task prioritization. Rank the items on your list by order of importance and complete the most significant task first. This strategy helps reduce stress levels, increases productivity and streamlines the process of completing the remaining tasks on your to-do list.2
Setting goals can also help you decide how to allocate your time. Follow these steps to create effective goals:3
- Develop a mixture of short-term goals that you can complete in a semester and long-term goals that require years of effort
- Break each large goal down into smaller objectives
- Estimate the time it will take you to complete each goal and add 25% as a buffer for unexpected disruptions
- Find an accountability partner, like a classmate, who is working on similar goals
- Continue pursuing goals you’re already working on instead of constantly creating new ones
- Celebrate progress instead of focusing on failures
Create a Structured Schedule
Make the most of your time by developing a weekly or monthly schedule that accommodates your work and study hours. Block off time in your calendar for specific tasks and activities. For instance, you might spend two hours daily studying for your courses and one hour working on a group project.
It’s also essential to strike a balance between consistency and flexibility. Stick to your schedule when possible, but don’t be afraid to make adjustments as necessary to complete your high-priority tasks.
Embrace Effective Time-Management Strategies
These time-management strategies can help you increase productivity and stay focused:4
- Start working on tasks well in advance of their due dates
- Break large tasks down into smaller, manageable chunks
- Log your time to identify the times of day when you’re more productive and schedule the most challenging, important tasks for those slots
- Add fun activities to your calendar
- Work on non-urgent tasks when you’re feeling tired or unmotivated
Maximize Productivity by Developing Strong Study Habits
Developing productive study habits can help you learn more efficiently. According to a 2021 study, students who use these study strategies improved their exam performance:5
- Use multiple study sessions instead of cramming
- Test your knowledge by using active study techniques, such as self-quizzing and summarizing the material
- Tempting though it is, don’t multitask; it's more efficient to handle one task at a time than to address multiple things at once
- Avoid distractions such as phone calls, text messages and entertainment media; of all of these steps, this one may require the most self-control
You should also create a conducive study environment. Choose a quiet space, with comfortable furniture, where you can avoid interruptions.
Seek Support and Collaboration
In addition to its many benefits, graduate school can sometimes be an isolating experience, but you do have people on your team. Your professors and other students can advise you on time management and study habits. You can also invite your peers to study with you for extra support.
Further, many employers offer flexible work arrangements and workplace support programs, such as mental health counseling. These resources can help you effectively manage your work schedule, school life and family responsibilities while staying on track.
It's not only acceptable, but it's vital to rely on your personal relationships when you need additional support. Call on family and friends outside of school for help. The people in your personal life can give you a safe space to vent and motivate you to maintain habits that protect your physical and mental health: sticking to a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, planning ahead, and so on. Further, you can ask your family to take on additional responsibilities during busy periods of the semester to help you manage your time effectively and complete assignments.
Prioritize Work-Life Balance
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can help you avoid burnout and promote overall wellness. To foster the right balance:6
- As much as possible, avoid working long hours
- Set boundaries between your academic, personal and professional lives
- Separate your workspace from the rest of your home
- Don’t be afraid to turn down extra responsibilities
- Prioritize your mental and physical health by getting adequate rest, nutrition and exercise
Communicate Your Needs
Advocate for yourself by communicating with professors and supervisors about your commitments and needs. Don’t be afraid to request flexible work arrangements or deadline extensions if you feel overwhelmed. These accommodations can help you prioritize and manage your time, which in turn enables you to deliver your best work.
Accelerate Your Career Momentum With an Online Master’s Degree
Set yourself up for success by choosing an online graduate program that prioritizes flexibility and offers academic support resources. The online Master of Engineering program at Case Western Reserve University flexes around your full-time job, family responsibilities and social life, empowering you to study on your schedule from any location.
Led by a faculty of experts, our practice-oriented program allows you to develop in-demand skills you can apply in various careers and industries. You'll enhance your knowledge of foundational engineering concepts as you take core courses such as Applied Engineering Statistics, Introduction to Business for Engineers, and Product and Process Design and Implementation. You can also develop specialized knowledge by concentrating in biomedical engineering, systems and control engineering or mechanical engineering.
- Retrieved on November 13, 2023, from ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf23311
- Retrieved on November 13, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6997848/
- Retrieved on November 13, 2023, from hbr.org/2022/08/5-ways-to-set-more-achievable-goals
- Retrieved on November 13, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9392870/
- Retrieved on November 13, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8108503/
- Retrieved on November 13, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8282063/