“You’re doing what?! Flying from San Francisco to New Haven every other weekend for the next 22 months for your MBA program? On top of this, you’re working full-time at your hectic job in healthcare consulting? How?!” I seem to be receiving this astonished reaction quite a bit nowadays from colleagues, friends, and even classmates, but my answer remains the same: absolutely yes.
Since the start of our program in late July, time has flown by and the Class of 2016 is already a month and a half into this colossal endeavor that we’ve collectively undertaken. After our 2 week in-house residency experience – also aptly called boot camp – we returned back to our homes in Baton Rouge and Sao Paulo and Chicago, to our awaiting families, and to about 5,000 unread work emails.
And then, the true reality of transitioning into balancing school with work and family set in.
How will I study for this microeconomics exam due in 5 days and finish both my accounting and probability homework assignments in the midst of traveling for an important client meeting and kicking off two new large-scale projects at work? How will I manage my stress and not take it out on others around me? Will I be able to still make it to the treadmill and catch a couple hours of sleep consistently? Can I spend a reasonable amount of time with family and will my friends still recognize me? What days do I travel to New Haven to maximize my study time on campus but still be present at home as much as possible?
It all sounds so implausibly overwhelming and incredibly demanding – and quite frankly it is – but as the old adage goes, anything you truly want must be worth fighting for – or in this case, worth working hard for. So with this in mind, I spoke to my mentor in the Class of 2015 and asked for advice – how does one stay afloat, especially during the first couple of weeks of transitioning to this new schedule? What I heard were specific strategies to make such a behemoth undertaking to be more manageable: create a 2-week schedule every Sunday after class weekends, study every night after work (even if just for an hour), complete assignments as soon as possible, study while in transit on planes and trains, exercise most if not all days to relieve stress (even if just for half an hour), and make sure that the time spent with family and friends is truly focused on them and nothing else. I’m told that after a period of time, the seemingly unmanageable becomes second-nature routine – a habit, really – and perhaps most surprisingly, that the “controlled chaos” in fact evokes more efficiency all around.
In my short time since starting the program, I’ve found that knowing upfront that the next two years will be difficult but rewarding has helped to set up expectations of what is to follow – and, that a systematic, organized approach toward balancing school with work and family will make the experience more meaningful and enjoyable.
Since boot camp, we’ve been back on campus for class a few times now, and as one of my classmates keenly observed, “On one hand it feels like it’s been ages since we left since our last class session and on the other hand it seems like we never left so much as instead just popped home for a long weekend.”