Finding Balance in B-School

Finding Balance in B-School

Transitioning from being a working professional to a full-time student can be a bit of a culture shock. It happens quickly and there is no way to prepare for it. Once admitted, some people decide to quit their jobs early and travel in anticipation of the b-school life; others, like myself, decide to work until the last day feasible before hopping on a plane for Random Walk. Regardless of how you approach the time between being admitted and matriculating, you’ll likely find there’s no “right choice” that primes you for all the unstructured time you’re about to find in your days to come as a business school student. As I settled into my new role as a student in my first quarter, I found myself restless trying to figure out how to best use my time over the next two years.

While there’s no shortage of things to do at Booth to fill your days, I wanted to be intentional with what I focused on and poured myself into. The next two years are an opportunity to invest in myself in more ways than just my education. I realized that there was a delicate balance I needed to find among attending Corporate Conversations, TNDC, doing homework, and making time for family and friends. What’s more I needed to adapt myself to an entirely new environment and ways of work, which meant reclaiming my time through restoration and prioritization.

In undergrad, I was an excellent napper. I could wiggle a nap into my schedule as needed and still meet my responsibilities. In the workforce, however, it’s frowned upon to take a snooze on your desk, apparently. I adjusted to no more weekday afternoon naps and instead worked on fighting my post-lunch brain fog with an abundance of caffeine. Fast forward to entering life as a student and I realized I had forgotten all of my napping skills. In fact, I began to view naps as a waste of time, unproductive! It wasn’t until I spoke to my wise friend, Pedro, that I realized the importance of restorative time. He said that we should soak up these two years and make the most of them. Rest is important because our schedules are different, arguably busier, as business school students with weekends consumed by homework and studying and every waking hour riddled with recruiting anxiety. Our “working hours” could easily become 24/7, if we permit, and it’s up to us to make our own hours as individuals. Allowing myself to prioritize resting on a Tuesday afternoon or taking off a Thursday to run errands was critical in establishing order in the limitlessness of Booth. Not every moment of every day needed to be “productive” in the sense that I was doing something directly contributing to my career or academics. Once I realized that restorative time is just as necessary as meeting with my study group, my Tuesday afternoon nap felt like a part of my schedule, it was an ingredient to my overall success. 

While academics are important and a driver of one’s success in business school, it is not the only priority. Sometimes, recruiting, friends, family, and / or extracurriculars take precedence over schoolwork, and that’s perfectly okay. Prioritization is essential in business school; and, sometimes, homework does not come first–or even second or third. Picture this: it’s January and Tech recruiting is ramping up. You have interviews that you have to prepare for, you decide to take a lab class that requires more of your time, one professor is a bookworm and assigns 100 pages of reading each week while the other loves getting quant-y and assigns a huge problem set. How are you going to prioritize your time? When are you going to get your rest, your you-time, to stay balanced? For me, recruiting became my first priority, so I would be sure I allocate a couple hours each day to preparing for interviews. With that, I might compromise and skim the 100 pages, knowing that I won’t retain all my professor hopes I will, and I’ll likely have to make up for it when studying for midterms / finals. I’d split up the problem set with my study group. And, I would absolutely allocate time for rest, exercise, and hanging with friends. Why? Balance (even if it comes with consequences). 

Consider how your definition of productivity might change once entering business school; what’s more, think through how you will sustain the momentum you come in with (remember that restorative time is productive too). Everyone achieves balance in different ways. How will you find yours? I hope that you’ll advocate for your time and create your own  structure in the limitless opportunities at Booth.