Survive and thrive: great habits to help you survive the MBA
It probably feels like a lifetime since you were last a student, so getting back into good studying habits to survive the MBA can be a real challenge. Plus, throw in the added pressure of studying at MBA level, as well as family life and career pressures that weren’t around at degree or master’s level and you’re sure to feel the burden.
But there are good habits you can adopt to increase your chances of MBA success. Plus, the Masters of Business Administration is the perfect time to find out what habits work for you personally; an exercise that will be of great use during your future high-powered career. To make the MBA process a little easier, we shares lifestyle tips and good habits to help you survive the MBA and thrive during this time of great personal and professional opportunities.
Daily habits to help you survive the MBA
Don’t think that you’re the only one struggling
We all handle pressure in different ways. Plus, it’s really hard to admit that we’re feeling the pressure. But you can bet that your classmates are going through the same experience, so it’s important to keep communicating with others, with anxiety and stress mounting when we feel most alone. Plus, you can share coping mechanisms to support each other through to success, building stronger relationships with your cohort.
Prioritise your reading list with the 80/20 rule
You’ve undoubtedly heard of the Pareto Principle, which tells us that only 20% of the things you do during your day produce 80% of your results. Brian Tracy, author of ‘Eat that Frog!’ tells us that there are three core tasks that you perform that generate the vast majority of the value that you contribute to your organisation. These are called your highest-leverage tasks and in order for you to get the greatest return for your time, energy and attention, you need to focus on these most of the time.
So survive the MBA, this rule can be applied to ploughing through your extensive reading list. Tracy recommends you that every day you ask yourself: if I could only read one of the things on that list all day long, what would it be? Then repeat this exercise to work out your second and third highest leverage activities. This exercise forces you to be most effective at doing what will generate the most value, preventing information overload and burnout, and allowing you to pace yourself until the end.
Do your most dreaded task first and prioritise effectively
It’s tempting to put off writing that killer MBA job application or avoid making a start on that massive project, but one of the best tips to being productive is to tackle your most unpleasant task first. Writer Michael Hyatt famously labelled this ‘slaying your dragons before breakfast.’ This approach also helps you to be disciplined in prioritising tasks: rank tasks according to importance or urgency and do those first. By doing them early in the day when you have the most motivation, you’ll feel spurred on to work through your task list, knowing you don’t have something unpleasant hanging over you for the rest of the day.
Ask for help
If there’s elements of the programme you’re really overwhelmed with, speak up and ask for help! International Business MBA professors and staff really want to see you thrive, so don’t be ashamed of asking for help when you need it to survive the MBA. Whether you need tutor support, study advice, further explanation of a task or something else, the school’s faculty will have helped many MBA students before you, so seek out and take their expert advice!
Build your support system
Support from your family and friends, as well as your boss or colleagues if you’re juggling an MBA with work can make or break your MBA success. Experts say the best way to build your support system is be up-front and honest with others about how the MBA will impact all areas of your life. Then be brutal at cutting all non-essential activities, and for those priorities that remain, see if you put processes into place before you begin the programme to make your life easier. By the same token, it’s important to carve out family time into your busy schedule – and then guard this with your life! This time out will help give you the endurance to make it through to the end.
Leverage MBA resources while you can!
MBA success isn’t just about cramming as much information as possible. The MBA experience is a brief period in your life that is filled with opportunity, so making the most of resources available to you can have a lasting benefit to your future career, not to mention your personal satisfaction and enjoyment – if you take time to look up from your books! In order to leverage the full benefits of the MBA experience, make time in your schedule to attend recruitment events, speak to companies, spend time with classmates and faculty and network with your invaluable alumni network. You can justify attending that 3 hour networking event or meeting an alumni for lunch if it leads to your dream MBA career opportunity!
Work in 90 minute intervals and take regular breaks
When we’re really busy and there seems to be a million things to do, the last thing we think to do is to take a break. However taking regular breaks throughout the day is proven to boost our productivity, improve our resilience to stress and increase our energy levels. According to Tony Schwartz, best-selling author of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live, we can achieve our optimum performance when we work in increments of 90 minutes followed by a short break – working longer than this means we see a decline in performance.
And it’s important to take breaks in the right way. Simply switching from our work task to check our personal emails or update our Facebook account won’t provide the desired effect. So step away from the computer screen or textbook, get up and move, get some fresh air or meditate, leading you refreshed and with a new sense of focus and clarity.
Eat right, sleep and fit in time for exercise
Many of us make the mistake in thinking that to achieve more, we should throw all of our energy into work, without taking the time to nurture our energy levels and relieve stress. This is a big mistake, because sooner or later, we’re going to run out of fuel and burn out. Productivity expert Chris Bailey says: “nothing has made me more productive than eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Behind every cliché is a truth that’s so powerful that people feel compelled to repeat the phrase over and over and over.”
EMLYON’s International MBA cohort share their advice for how to survive the MBA!
Current International MBA cohort Bozhidar shares some great advice on how to survive the MBA: “Plan your time well: arrive at least two weeks early in the city, find a good place to live, take care of administrative paperwork, bank accounts etc well before the start of classes. Once classes start, your free time ends and the work is very intensive and challenging. And of course, polish your skills in prioritising and working smarter, not necessarily harder, because with the amount of reading that needs to be done, that’s definitely an approach you will need to consider. For those that think it’s possible to combine work with full-time MBA studies, I’d say that it’s very close to impossible, because you’re engaged 6-7 days a week. I study 7 days in a week – and that is my full-time job for the duration of the programme…This intensity comes with a lot of fun as well, so come with an open mind and be ready for anything!”
Current cohort Maryanne from Kenya also talks about the challenge of balancing the 9 month part-time Entrepreneurial Leadership Project in which MBA students consult an organisation, with the requirements of the MBA courses and looking for jobs. She says: “it’s important to mention prioritisation and time management. The Entrepreneurial Leadership Project doesn’t have an allocated time in the MBA calendar per se. It goes hand in hand with the courses and job search. All these are different tasks and one needs to be wise enough to know how to balance the three. You cannot choose one over the other as they all need to get done. With time, you learn how to use 24 hours in any given day to be efficient and effective.”
Further reading from the experts on MBA lifestyle tips
- Getting Things Done; the Art of Stress Free Productivity, David Allen
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey
- Eat That Frog! Brian Tracy
- The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance, Tony Schwartz