My brilliant reality is that most of my food these days comes from a bag. The paper Starbucks sleeve that holds my breakfast sandwich, the tote of Chipotle for lunch, and the measly Steamfresh pouch of frozen mixed veggies that I often find myself heating for dinner. I used to love cooking and sharing meals with friends. These days I can barely keep myself in clean laundry. Such is the glamour of juggling an executive MBA program and a demanding full-time job.

I can’t say that managing everything has been easy. However, it is amazing how creative you can be with your time. Being at Duke has helped me prioritize what’s most important over those things that are less so, like cooking meals from scratch — I have to choose quicker options now. Some friends and causes have fallen to the wayside, too. For example, I used to love to volunteer for Special Olympics. I’ve had to put that on hold. Wednesday nights used to be spent listening to one of my favorite local bands, Wurlhitzer Prize. That too, had to be cut.

What I find myself doing more often is stealing away from study time to connect with friends and family. A Sunday coffee, a quick dinner or lunch. Those moments away from work and studying are like a refueling session. I am constantly reminding myself that this 1.5-year MBA journey is a marathon, not a sprint. So, taking a little time to grab a bite with my closest friends or sneaking away for an overnight with my sister are an important part of helping me go the distance and prevent burnout. Taking on something like the Weekend Executive MBA program means that sacrifices will be made. You just have to be good at figuring out where to trim the fat. While some social activities have been put on hold, all of them have not. I’ve simply become a lot better at prioritizing and focusing on what’s really important. I didn’t come to Duke seeking that clarity. I’d like to think they threw that in for free.