How Time Flies — and Changes

I keep thinking that we’re fortunate that this MBA program is a two-year deal. Doing this all, the academic work, the career search, and the assorted minutiae that make this a 24-hour occupation, may be feasible in 12 months, but if that were the case, then there wouldn’t be very much time for anything else. It would be more like work, and less like school, and I think you might have a hard time convincing folks to do it without the ‘80s parties and 5-week break around the holidays.

Maybe we’re just lazy as a species, but we seem to default to using the year as the fundamental unit for progress. We assume that if we start an activity on October 1 of Year X, our progress by October 1 of Year X+1 is a pretty good gauge of whether or not we’ve succeeded in whatever it was we set out to do. I guess it’s this reality that makes business school seem like a time of growth, that one should be somewhat different in the second year than in the first, that somehow, our time in business school precipitates that change.

Last year, during the Monday of Fall Break, I was busy attending corporate presentations in New York, listening attentively and rehearsing conversations while clad in a suit. This year, I’m also near New York, but comfortably dressed, while watching Law & Order reruns with three dogs and a cat on my mom’s couch. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like progress. I feel like I’ve become less ambitious, and in general, I have been somewhat less busy this year than last. Sometimes, I almost feel idle.

But does more free time really indicate regression? I assumed this was the case, and that at the ripe old age of 28, I was beginning my protracted decline. But I wonder if, more so than buffing up our careers, this is an opportunity to become more focused. I have strange memories of my first year. I remember being busy, but I almost forget why I was so busy. I felt like I was being pulled in a hundred different directions, but remarkably, it was almost all voluntary. It’s one of the vices of youth, especially in the 21st century, that we’re permitted to lack direction early in our adult lives.

It’s tempting to get involved in every club with a mailing list and an attractive T-shirt. I fell victim to this pattern, despite an abundance of warnings. But I didn’t regret it. I feel that having an excess of activities and events and a shortage of time forced me to learn the skill of prioritization. And how could I have known what to focus on unless I gave myself a lot of choices? Funny, I took 4 years of economics classes as an undergrad, and had to come to business school to learn how to economize my own most valuable asset – time.

So, as I watch the hours pass and watch the figurative grass grow today, while awaiting my return to Durham, I feel complacent, knowing that, if nothing else, the last 14 months have taught me how to achieve more by doing less. It may fly in the face of the great American rat race, but at the very least, it’s efficient.