Six strategies for balancing work and studying the Executive MBA during a pandemic
In lockdown 1.0, I decided I wanted to study an MBA. I felt stuck and like many that I wasn’t moving forward in the direction I wanted to. It was time for a change. Fast forward to October 2020, I started the Executive MBA at the Business School (formerly Cass) and landed my dream role at Google DeepMind in what was a completely new sector for me. I had to navigate onboarding and meeting new work colleagues remotely, alongside the demands of the MBA programme, which ranged from adjusting to Zoom lectures to getting to know my study group. All of a sudden, I had more change than I bargained for.
Feeling overwhelmed, I knew I had to find ways to play to my strengths and quieten my inner critic. I am a planner and doer at heart, so I developed some coping strategies that have helped me through the turbulence that I would like to share with you:
1. Take the wins where you can
If that is smashing out of the park on an assignment, or just making your bed, that’s ok. Both are valuable. What have you won today? What do you want to win tomorrow?
2. Find the positives in the negatives
Covid-19 is universally awful, but I do believe every cloud has a silver lining. I’m lucky to be able to work from home which has given me my commute time back and enabled me to use this time to do my reading. Are there any areas of your life where you’ve gotten time back? How can you better leverage this?
3. Ask yourself, should I do this?
If you don’t want to do it and it won’t have a positive impact on you or others in some way, it shouldn’t be on your to do list. No more doing things because you feel like you ‘should’. We are busy people, let the ‘should’ go.
4. It doesn’t have to be perfect all the time
We’re here because we’re driven and have goals that we think studying at the Business School will help us achieve, and bottom line it’s a financial investment, so we want to maximise our return on investment. Sometimes it’s useful to remind yourself that ‘complete’ is better than ‘perfect’.
5. Know when to say no and when to ask for help
My study group is amazing and I really wanted to make a meaningful contribution to all our assignments, but I quickly learned that we all have different skills. Be honest about your limitations and about when you’re feeling up against challenges. Understand when you need to take a step back or conversely, if you’re having a quiet week at work, volunteer to do that extra piece of research. Everyone experiences peaks and troughs and on the whole, it will balance itself out.
6. Lastly – and most importantly – take care of yourself
Remaining healthy both physically and mentally is crucial to being able to balance work and study so schedule rest time, eat right and move your body. It goes without saying, but sometimes we need to be explicitly reminded!
These days, ‘work-life balance’ has taken on a whole new meaning and balancing a career while simultaneously studying in any capacity can seem like adding on another layer. When an assignment or task seems too daunting, hopefully calling upon some of the above coping strategies can help you mentally prepare.
Abigail Malaley, Executive MBA (2022)