How to Balance School, Work, and Life

Life of an Online Student

Check out how one woman juggles an online degree, marriage, and a business.

By Charyn Pfeuffer    

Not much stands in Donna Queza's path.

A first generation Angeleno, the feisty 27-year-old was the first in her family to attend college, earning her bachelor's degree in public relations from California State University, Long Beach in 2007.

After working four years at a small marketing agency, Queza realized that in order for her to stay in touch with the ever-changing face of online communications, she would need to go back to school and earn an advanced degree.

The go-getter that she is, Queza wanted to continue working while attending school. This required a flexible learning environment, which she eventually found in Full Sail University's online, accelerated 12-month master's in Internet marketing program.

A couple of months after starting the program, Queza decided to leave her agency job to launch Marketing Optimist, an Internet marketing agency for small businesses.

In January 2012, Queza graduated with her master's in Internet marketing and is now using the knowledge and experience she gained to help build her new business.

"It feels amazing to be finished," Queza says. "The one-year program was perfect for me. It was intense at times, but it went so quickly that I didn't feel like I ever hit the wall. Now I'm able to focus all of my attention on applying my knowledge and growing my startup."

Wonder how she was able to balance a new business, school, and marriage? You're in luck. While she was in school, we asked Donna to log her daily activities to help other back-to-school hopefuls decide if they were up for the challenge.

Here's a glimpse of a typical Wednesday in the life for this business owner and former full-time student.

Rise & Shine

8:00 AM - The alarm is going off. What can I say? I'm not too much of a morning person. But, I've known this was coming for a while and my half-asleep mental checklists have already begun. Did I respond to that email? Should I follow up with that proposal today?

8:15 AM - I'm still in bed, but I have checked all three of my email addresses and Facebook.


The Work Begins

9:00 AM - I'm showered, dressed, and at my desk. Working from home has its perks - the commute is a snap! I like to take some time at the beginning of the day to read articles, update my company blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account. It helps me feel in the loop and gets my day started on the right foot.

9:45 AM - The checklist is out and the emailing, phone calling, and project updates begin.

1:00 PM - It's time to come up for air...and food. I head into the kitchen, pop something in the microwave, and have a friendly chat with my dog. Typically, I try to break away from the desk for 30 minutes to enjoy my lunch, but that's not always the case. More often than not, I take this time to check in on school and other non-work-related tasks.

1:15 PM - For the final class of my master's degree, we are working on a group project. I live in California and my two teammates are in Florida and Puerto Rico. Needless to say, with the time differences, we chat whenever we can. We've set up a private Facebook group and share documents in Google. Although I sometimes miss the connectivity of going to class on campus, technology has enabled us to work well as a virtual team. I make a few updates to a shared document and send the feedback to the group.

2:00 PM - Back at it. In the afternoon I find my second wind. I typically check in again with my social media. Working from home by myself, I find social media keeps me connected, and as an Internet marketer, it keeps me relevant in my industry. Once that's done, I'm able to focus on that project that's been giving me the stare down for the better part of the week.

4:45 PM - A notification pops up from my calendar. Class starts in 15 minutes. Time to wrap up what I'm working on and switch gears to school mode again. For the next 14 minutes and 55 seconds I finish up projects and shoot off about 10 more emails.

4:59 PM - Plug in my headset, log in to virtual class. I'm sending my last email, I swear.


Switch into School Mode

5:00 PM - Class starts. We review open projects, talk about last week's assignment, and ask questions about expectations for this week's assignment. My team members couldn't make the call, so I post an update to the Facebook group letting them know some of the details as they relate to our project.

6:00 PM - Class ends.

6:15 PM - Another way of keeping our class connected is through weekly discussion boards. The instructor posts a question that we must post an answer to by Wednesday night. I log in to my class, take a look at this week's question, and begin my research. By month 12 - my final month - in the program, it's nice to see so many familiar faces on the discussion board.

6:45 PM - Class is done, discussion board is updated, team project is in motion, life is good. Of course, I have an epiphany and come up with a great blog post. Just five more minutes so I can get this thought out of my head.


Enjoy (Some) Rest & Relaxation

7:00 PM - My husband is giving me that look. Time to pack it in and eat some dinner. It's been a productive day, and I'll be back at it tomorrow.

8:39 PM - Oh. I think I forgot to send an email. I'll just pop back into the office and jot that down on my to-do list for tomorrow - I guess working from home has its drawbacks, too!


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