I knew life would get busier when I started the TMMBA program at Foster last year but I didn’t quite grasp exactly how busy it could get. “Work-life” balance has transformed into “work-school” balance since my life is now all about work and school! That pretty much sums up my last 9 months and I’m confident the next 9 months will pretty much be the same.
While each day is different and brings new challenges, I have tried to create some “rules” and come across a few “tips” that allow me to maximize productivity and better cope with a busy life.
Sunday Nights are No Longer Mine.
Sunday nights watching True Blood with friends has been replaced with a lot of reading, reviewing lecture notes, working on class projects and discussing homework with classmates. My study group primarily meets virtually, as hectic business travel and distance often makes meeting in person prohibitive. Sundays tend to work best for us and we kind of accept that the day and most of the evening will be dedicated to the group and whatever assignments we have due that week. At first it was annoying but once you accept that it will only be for 18 months and a necessary component to success in the program it becomes second nature and you adjust.
Monday has become my busiest (and surprisingly favorite) day of the week. And that’s not due to the “Monday Morning Madness” that typically plagues most of us at work, but because I have class on Monday nights from 6-9:30 pm. I adjust my entire day (and sometimes week) accordingly – I wake up earlier (4:45 am), schedule all conference calls in the morning, push my morning workout to lunch, turn lunch into a heavy, mid-afternoon snack since I eat dinner (provided by TMMBA before each class) earlier and hit the freeway early enough to avoid rush hour traffic on the East Side. Monday night dinners before class are a great way to catch up with classmates, finish some reading or put the last minute touches on a class presentation.
Traffic has become my friend and that’s only because I learned to stop fighting it. And to be clear, I work from a home office so I don’t have a typical commute like many of my TMMBA colleagues. Getting out of bed on my way to the computer in my home office by way of the coffee machine each morning puts my commute time at a grueling 45 seconds. However, when I have work meetings in the city or need to get to class I can be in traffic anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours each way. I try to make the most out of this time and do something productive for class. Almost every lecture has a few discussion points that should be considered and/or prepared prior to each class and I use this time to think about those or sometimes practice a speech that I am about to deliver.
The 180 Rule.
My TMMBA class photo taken last November changed my life. I was ridiculously overweight and tipping the scales at over 285 pounds – there, I said it! Seeing that photo gave me the motivation to lose weight and could not have come at a better time in my life. I knew that I needed to get back into shape if I was going to have any chance at successfully taking on the rigors of academic life in addition to an already crowded plate. Believe it or not a MORE hectic schedule now forces me to plan better and that includes eating healthier and working out consistently. The one non-negotiable task I set for myself every day is exercise – above all else, exercise. I am now down 68 pounds in 9 months and have 37 more to go to get to my goal weight of 180. More importantly, I am sleeping better, feeling better, waking up earlier and have more than enough energy to dedicate to my class load every quarter. Oh some nice side effects – my blood sugar is no longer at pre-diabetic levels and my jeans fit better!
The old saying “too much to do, not enough hours in the day to do it” was certainly true before I decided to go back to school. I’ve always been obsessed with “to do” lists and now that obsession has become a critical tool for me to get through the day. The BEST days are when I get through the entire list, the WORST when I get through none but MOST consist of getting through some but not all. I am 100% ok with that now. Adding business school to my life, it is impossible to get through everything that I used to which forced me to learn the art of making choices. The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk is take everything on yesterday’s list that didn’t get done and write them on today’s “to do” list. I add everything else I’d like to accomplish that day, re-prioritize it whole list and begin my day. I make a point of handwriting this out so that it becomes ingrained in my head. I keep the list taped to a corkboard behind my monitor so that I am able to visually see the list get smaller as the day progresses. Seeing the big picture allows me to make choices, separating “nice to get done” tasks from “need to get done” tasks. TMMBA blog now crossed off the list!
Oh, I forgot to mention coffee – lots and lots of coffee…