Embarking on a 2 year intensive journey for an MBA is demanding across all aspects of your life: intellectually, socially, financially, and personally. How do you balance these demands and make sure you are making the most of your MBA for the best possible experience?
The answer is in the question itself: balance. Part of the MBA experience is training you for the tumultuous real world whirlwind of leadership within an organization, in which balance is crucial.
Step 1: Aim For Growth, Not Perfection
Getting back into the groove of homework, papers, exams, and projects is part of the MBA experience. It’s an opportunity to learn things you have never seen before and work with people who may have vastly different backgrounds from you.
In this challenging and character-building journey, it’s important to avoid getting hung up on perfection and instead focus on growth. Being myopically focused on short-term goals of an A+ on a project could lead to damaging the true learning experience: working with others, building a strong collaborative team, and truly understanding and appreciating the material.
Step 2: Find Bright Spots
The process of getting an MBA should be filled with moments of signing up for things that make your heart pound in excitement, whether it’s a class with a world-renowned professor or joining a business plan challenge to win $100K.
Seize these opportunities and take full advantage of everything that makes you happy to be alive, as scary or ridiculous as the opportunity may seem to be. If your school offers a European study tour led by a professor in a field you are passionate about, sign up. If the founder of a company you’ve been following for years is speaking at your school, make sure you are tapped into the right network of information so you know when to attend.
Bright spots may not just be opportunities, they may be people too. Find people who are excited to tell your about their experiences and give you advice.
Step 3: Optimize Your Process
Growth and a carpe-diem attitude go hand-in-hand, but neither is sustainable without a strong process in place. Continually work on optimizing your organization and communication systems to be more efficient, clear, and turnkey to create more time for yourself.
Balance is achieved with you are able to clearly prioritize what is important to you (i.e. growth, sleep, networking, exercise) in a systematic, sustainable way. Schedule three 7am workouts during the week and stick to that schedule. Make a rule for yourself to attend at least one networking session per week (side note: get on the right mailing lists to know which ones). Coordinate a study group that meets weekly to do homework together so you don’t fall behind. Make sure to Skype with your loved ones as much as possible – even if it’s while you are making dinner.
The point is, if you are constantly looking for ways to optimize your process, you will become more efficient and be able to take advantage of growth and opportunities in a healthier, more sustainable way.
Victoria Young (Twitter: @msvictoriayoung)
Forte Fellow and MBA Candidate
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
Victoria is an MIT Sloan MBA student in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Peer Advisor at the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship. She helps brands and organizations identify trends, connect with their audiences, and design delightful experiences. She also believes in the triple bottom line: people, profit, and planet. As a strategist, brands she has worked on in the past include Disney, Rolex, and Invisible Children.