Archive for November 3rd, 2010

Applicant Question: How to Stay Productive in Business School?

Given the dynamic of our internet-driven society, professionals operate in a more distracting world than ever before.  As a result, being productive has become increasingly more difficult, and sometimes it can feel impossible because you feel pulled in so many different directions.  And that’s especially true in business school, where there’s pressure to take on more, incentive to stay out with friends longer, and avenues to stay busy every minutes of the day. Well, in a recent question from one of my regular readers, I was asked if it’s even possible to stay productive in that environment.

First of all, this is a really great question. After all, it’s something that just about all MBA students are going through right now, including me. Not only first years but also second years. And not just here at Kellogg, or in the JD-MBA program, but across all top schools more broadly, especially the first years.  Given this is a pretty important topic and given I often find myself struggling to get everything done, I figured I’d post a few tips on how to stay as productive as possible during the days, as it would not only serve the purpose of informing my readers of tips that will work when they get to business school, but also help to reinforce the ideas for me personally. But I’ll also note that nothing here comes in the form of new ideas, but instead just things to keep in mind as you navigate the year.

See below for the reader’s question, and below that for my response.



Dear Jeremy

Just a quick note: I am wondering how you manage to keep your site up while also doing classes and taking part in activities. Also, I’d be interested to hear more about how people manage their days, especially during recruiting season.

Thank you in advance.



Dear (Name),

Thanks for checking out my site and for sending your question. It comes at a perfect time, as things are really starting to get busy here at Kellogg, especially for the first years. In fact, I’ve recently gotten a couple of questions and comments about this very topic over the past few weeks. After a bit of thinking, I came up with a few systematic things that I like to do to ensure that I get more done:

First, I like to keep one to-do list.  I also see a number of people here on campus with these lists and they seem to work well for most students. I recently started keeping mine and I include everything I want to do on a single sheet and check back periodically through the day.  Writing everything down helps get it off your mind and leaves time to focus on the task at hand.  And checking things off feels good and allows you to see that you’ve gotten things done throughout the day.

Second, I like to prioritize the most important things for the day (and week). Because when you’re busy, it’s easy to forget things, even the most important things, especially during the busiest parts of the day.  So my advice is to figure out a way to keep the important things on top of mind. Personally, before leaving for campus, I try to think about the things that are most important, so I have time to think about them on my walk to school. And I do the same before walking back home.

Third, I think it’s really effective to figure out what time you work best at and try to tackle a lot of work during that time. For me, that happens to be very early in the morning, when I not only have the most energy but also when nobody is at the school (or even awake) so I have fewer distractions. By blocking out time in the early morning to work, I find that I tend to get more done and have a more predictable schedule when needed.

And finally, many of my classmates would suggest that you should  not forget schedule personal time.  Though this isn’t always the biggest priority for me personally, a lot of people find they work better when they have a bit of time to relax. And although it’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of the day, reserving time to do things you enjoy can not only be therapeutic but also keep you sane.  Personally, I like to save time to go to the gym, talk with friends on campus, work on a few outside ventures, and work on my website. Though I’ll admit, the latter two tend to keep me just as busy as if I were doing other types of work. Either way, I enjoy the activities, so it makes the day a lot more fun and productive.

I hope this helps!


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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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