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Managing My Time, Managing Myself

When I decided to get an MBA, I wanted to expand my career opportunities and acquire some new skills, but I also wanted to take two years to focus on developing myself in broader sense. I knew that MBA programs, partly by design, offer and demand more than you can manage. They force you to make tough choices about where to spend your time and to learn how to turn out work and influence outcomes under significant constraints.

I was a typical Type A person who never had a free minute and sometimes felt like my Outlook calendar was scheduling me. I was very successful, but it was clear that the habits and ways of thinking that had gotten me that far were going to become less and less helpful--and even limiting--as I moved into more senior leadership roles and took on greater challenges. Coming to business school was a way to force the question and very intentionally change how I manage my time and energy.

So how's it going? Well, even though I knew about the conflicting demands to expect and wanted to work on this very issue, I still found it challenging to navigate the core curriculum this fall. In my undergraduate work and professional experience (energy efficiency consulting), I needed to constantly drill deeper into the topics I studied. The core, however, is designed to very rapidly impart such a broad range of perspectives and tools that it's unavoidably shallow. It was challenging for me to accept that intention, and as a result I sometimes overinvested in coursework.

With the benefit of perspective, I could have spent some more time networking professionally and socializing with my classmates without meaningfully impacting my learning. I still would have gotten that broad base of knowledge, but I would also have developed richer friendships with classmates, better positioned myself for internships, and had a little more fun. My experience seems to be a common one, so even knowing about this tension in advance probably won't enable you to manage it to your complete satisfaction. I hope that being sensitive to it will help you quickly recognize it, though, and respond intentionally.

I can see clearer evidence of progress in the way that I now think about "me" time: time for the activities and relationships that energize me and make life enjoyable. That time used to be the first thing to get bumped by working late and meeting other obligations, and I'd rationalize it by thinking that it was just a necessary sacrifice during unusually busy times. I realized, though, that because I want to be deeply engaged in my profession and community, there won't be a time in my life when I leave work at 5 and have nothing to do. I want that deep engagement, and I also want strong connections to the people whom I care about and the activities that bring me joy. Today, I approach life a little more like a marathon (though one I run pretty fast), so I'm much more intentional in how I use my time and energy. As a result, I've been spending more satisfying time with my partner and being active outside--both things that bring me joy and help me be my best self.

In business school, I've learned about DCF analysis and inventory management and core competencies, to be sure, but one of my most important lessons has been improving the way that I manage myself. I came to Carlson to work on that in a setting where I can take risks and learn from driven, successful peers, and I feel very lucky to have enjoyed the chance to do it.

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