I hear it all the time.

“Oh man, you’re working AND getting an MBA? I’d never be able to do that.”

Working a full-time job, working with your team, managing personal responsibilities, and getting an MBA at the same time is not for the weak-hearted. It takes grit and resilience to get through an executive MBA program—but the right mechanisms, habits, and tools are the key differentiators between success and failure.

In this post, I hope to share how I personally stay ahead in Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA program.

Pick Your Tools

The tools you choose to keep you on track can either make you or break you. Personally, I use Todoist and Evernote to keep me on track with everything I do. Todoist tracks anything actionable (e.g. work on accounting case) and Evernote is my external brain where all notes and ideas are stored (e.g. lecture notes, general ideas, paperwork, quiet places to cry, etc.).

The key is to blend your personal life, working life, and MBA life to get a holistic view of everything you need to get done. The more data you load into these tools, the easier it will become to keep an eye on everything happening in your day. I personally prefer digital tools because they’re omnipresent, searchable, and sometimes just delightful to use.

Pick your tools and commit to them.

a bulleted calendar list showing five different tasks over a 4-day period; one of the tools to help you stay ahead in an executive MBA program
Screenshot of what I need to get done in the next few days, lovingly presented to me by Todoist

Stick to Your Habits

Your habits will determine the pace of how well you execute. Personally, here are some habits that I employ to help keep me on track with the program:

Every Sunday, I hold a weekly review with myself and typically review the following:

  • Upcoming tasks and events for the week (in Todoist)
  • Notes that I’ve taken in the past week that need to be actioned or processed (in Evernote)
  • Any conflicts between work, personal, and school life in the next two weeks.

I also spend 20 minutes with no technology and just to be bored for a little while.

I advise that you track all of your tasks in a single place. If it needs to be done, it will always be logged in your task manager (whatever tool you choose). Build the habit to check this tool obsessively throughout the day.

Take Care of Yourself

When you’re in the Global Executive MBA program, you’re in a marathon. Take care of your own mental health and do everything you can to remove any cognitive strain.

Personally, the following methods have helped me keep a sense of balance and happiness during intensely stressful times:

  • Walk—a lot. Take walks in nature. Be outside and be present to clear your head.
  • Reduce your cognitive load. Use your brain to do cool things like think and create, not just to remember things. There are amazing tools like Todoist and Evernote that will remember things for you. Birthdays, tasks, events, and ideas can easily be offloaded to one of these tools. They’re also better at remembering than humans.
  • Context is everything. Keep a record of what you’re grateful for every day to keep your mood up and realize just how cool it is to be in the Global Executive MBA program!

Embrace the Suck

Finally, remember that you’re in this program because you’re intelligent, hard-working, and hyper-competent. Some parts will absolutely suck—but learn to love them too and focus on enjoying the overall experience. Embrace all of the challenges that come at you because you’re going to become stronger with every passing day.