A consistent piece of advice that you hear when pursuing an Executive MBA is to try to avoid major life-changing events during the program. Starting a new job while in the Duke MBA program, Matt Summer writes, is stressful so “combining two stressful, life-changing events at one time in your life is really not something I would recommend.”
The same holds true for starting a family, relocating, or launching a new business venture. But what about something beyond your control—like a global pandemic? Starting and completing an MBA during COVID-19 is unprecedented and filled with uncertainty. Everyone’s personal and professional circumstances have been impacted in different ways.
I have found that one of the best resources for helping deal with the challenges of 2020 has been to leverage the wisdom and support of fellow MBA classmates, all of whom have been adjusting and pivoting to this new reality in different and inspiring ways. To help share their insights, I decided to launch a podcast Wisdom.MBA, available on Apple Podcasts.
Cate Gropper, for instance, is a fellow Weekend Executive MBA (WEMBA) classmate who works as a production manager at NBC News’ TODAY Show. Cate discusses on the podcast what it was like to work in New York City while broadcasting the TODAY show during COVID-19 lock downs, going from over 200 people in their studio to 14.
It was an “incredibly difficult transition,” she says, because every one of the infrastructures changed overnight, going from satellite transmissions for a national news source to using Zoom, Facetime and other online resources for interviews and segments. As it relates to school, “your efforts matter more now than ever,” says Cate. While we may have more time on our hands not having to travel for school, it can seem harder to focus on assignments and homework given increased distractions at home.
While talking with classmate Bailey Smith, she provides some tips and strategies for time-management, particularly for those with young kids at home. Bailey talks about a seminar that she attended during the Duke Women’s Weekend hosted by Fuqua that helped change her perspective on tasks and goal setting. The seminar was given by Associate Professor of Marketing Jordan Etkin whose research focuses on goals, how people set and pursue them, plus their effects on motivation and performance.
Typically, we assign time that we think a given task is going to take, but we often under-estimate the amount of time required to complete it. If you do not complete the task, you feel like you have failed which impacts your overall motivation. You should instead operate on a block schedule. A better way to manage WEMBA responsibilities, Bailey argues, is to “give myself a block of time and whatever I can accomplish in that block is what I accomplish, instead of wanting to get specific tasks accomplished.”
This has undoubtedly been a challenging year, but it has offered us a chance to learn from adversities and leverage the wisdom and support of our MBA classmates in new ways.