“I am definitely going to take a course on time management … just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.” – Louis E. Boone

This quote very well captures the essence of being in business school, and the single greatest challenge that we, as business students, face – managing our time. When you choose to allocate your time to one activity, you are also actively choosing to not do other things. While this sounded like a trivial issue to us as new students who were easily excitable and willing to put in 20 hours a day at the onset, we quickly learned an important lesson. When we were exposed to the full heat of academics, recruiting, club work and social life, I learned, as my classmate Emma puts it, that I can do everything, but not at the same time. Here are some of the “nuggets of wisdom” that I’ve learned about time management:

  1. Get a planner. Planning out every day and every hour of your day may seem like a very corporate thing to do, but trust me, it’s indispensable when you’re in business school. The most important part of being successful is showing up to the right place at the right time, and not being completely clueless. So get a planner and make notes, or manage your commitments on the calendar on your phone. Having a sense of control over your time will help you feel a lot less overwhelmed.
  2. Get your priorities straight. Getting a 4.0 GPA, becoming president of the club you always wanted to join, picking up an on-campus employment opportunity, landing your dream job, and finding time to socialize and take trips with your friends – this is all an incredible fantasy. The chances are that things won’t turn out to be as you had hoped, and some things will be harder than you were prepared for. You have to prioritize by choosing what is most vital to you, give it all you have, and celebrate your successes instead of obsessing over the battles you lost. Remember what is important!
  3. The lesser evil – budgeting time.  It is crucial to budget time for different tasks you have to do during the day. It’s easy to spend 2 hours drafting an assignment and then 4 more hours improving it. Be careful about spending too much time making everything flawless, unless you want to spend 30-40 hours each week working on assignments alone! Everything can’t and won’t be perfect. Sometimes you have to decide what is good enough, and move on to the other things on your plate.
  4. Make the most of your weekends.  During my first week in school, I tried to finish all schoolwork during the weekdays, so I’d have time to relax and explore Durham over the weekends. I now know that this was a bad idea. Don’t set unreasonable expectations for yourself. Definitely use weekends to unwind, and have some fun, but it’s also the best time to work ahead. Make sure you celebrate your Friday evenings at Fuqua Friday, but also use at least part of every weekend to prepare for the coming week’s assignments and classes!
  5. Bring together what you have to do with what you want to do.  Avoid being in the MMS team rooms for 10 hours a day. When you can, have team meetings in coffee shops, over dinner, or in libraries around campus. If you can’t find any time to discover the campus or Durham because of the workload, then bring them together. It’s not that hard!

Business school definitely keeps you on your toes, but making it an ordeal is your own doing. Get smart about how you use your time, and when you do find that occasional night off with no urgent work or fires to be put out, seize the moment and enjoy it without feeling guilty. It’s a precious, rare gift – make the most of it!