I’ll always remember a conversation with a friend who is a mother of three. She told me she managed her time in 10 minute blocks. Because every minute counted. If you wanted to get anywhere close to achieving your to-do list, you made sure that every 10 minutes was used for achieving something. The dishes. The school drop off. Adding the sugar spun fairy wings to the cupcakes for her daughter’s grade two garden party (yes, she is an overachiever).
I’ve found myself remembering that conversation more and more as the initial adrenaline of the MBA wears off, and it shifts from a new challenge to a lifestyle. A lifestyle that has to be carefully managed if you want to keep your sanity and relationships in tact.
The thing I heard most in the induction, at the open day and from everyone I’ve met who has either finished an MBA or is part way through, is that I should expect to be busier than I’d ever imagined. I guess I should have realised they were serious when we learnt how to speed read as part of induction!
Because the facts are simple: there is only so much time in a day.
In my ‘old life’ pre-MBA, my days were pretty full and organised in a (relatively) balanced way.
There was my job. My full-time job. For most of us doing the MBA, our jobs are not exactly a walk in the park. I can’t remember the last time I took a lunch break, or stuck to my standard hours.
There was my consultancy business that my partner and I run alongside our jobs.
There was my social life. Ahh, the days when there was time to, you know, just hang out. Without a text book in arms reach.
There was sleep. I’m a big fan of a good eight hours a night.
There was a healthy lifestyle. Going to the gym, cooking healthy food.
Then the MBA kicks off. And at first you think you’re on top of it. You’ve done the pre-reading for every class and you’re taking it all in. No loss of sleep and you’re still making it to the gym. Winning.
Then week five comes around, and we have readings or assignments due for six different modules at once, along with professional development courses on weekends.
Suddenly you’re less up to date with the pre-reading. Financial Markets and Instruments starts to sound like another language. You’re tired. All the time. You start to wonder how it’s possible to fit everything in.
Hats off to everyone who is doing the MBA with kids (and one with a newborn!). Heroes, every one of you.
Because we’re human. There is only so much we can do and take in before exhaustion hits. When we reach that point, we might as well not have bothered with that pre-reading, because we can’t remember any of it anyway.
So years after that conversation with my friend, I’ve found myself thinking about managing my time in 10 minute blocks. Pre-reading on the tube. Writing the structure for my next essay between the gym and dinner. Proof reading an assignment before my first meeting of the day.
There are times when this doesn’t feel like learning. It feels like rushing at full speed from task-to-task, more worried about what’s on the ‘to-do list’ than how I’ll apply what I’ve learnt at work tomorrow.
So is it worth it?
No question. Otherwise it would just be some kind of strange self-inflicted torture!
But it does mean extreme prioritisation. It means knowing when to stop and take time out (I’m still working on that one). It means compromise. It means not giving up brunch with that friend you haven’t seen for months. Then after your first unsteady steps, you find some semblance of balance.
There are lots of things about Cass I expected. The level of professionalism. The slick induction process. The quality of the course materials. And Cass has some rockstar lectures in its ranks.
But the one thing I wasn’t expecting was the sense of community Cass aims to build between the students and staff. One of the first things we were told was that “you can’t do an MBA alone” (they were right by the way!).
Cass puts a lot of effort into making sure that you’re not alone. A big part of induction is getting to know your classmates – a great bunch of friendly, smart and interesting people from all over the world. You’re allocated to a group on day one, with a mentor. The course coordinators are always on hand. Lecturers know your name, start the class by asking how your week has been, and make themselves available if you need more support.
It was a nice surprise to find a human face behind the slick brochures and the corporate website.
It makes it that little bit easier when time is of the essence and you feel the pressure of the clock ticking on your next 10 minutes.
Executive MBA (2019)