A few weeks ago during orientation, a second-year student spoke to our class. His advice: “just keep swimming.” We all found comical the short clip he showed from Pixar’s Finding Nemo, but I don’t think anyone had a clue how pertinent that advice would be…at least, I know I didn’t.
I work for a market research tech start-up, and the last sixteen months have been a whirlwind of late nights, major successes, and admittedly some stress. Therefore, I felt confident that I was used to the workload and constantly shifting priorities.
The reality is that our entire Wharton Executive MBA (WEMBA) class is made up of high-achievers, and therefore, like many work assignments, we saw the program as just one more challenge to fit into our busy lives.
Fast-forward five weeks to our first mid-term exam, which ironically fell over the July 4th weekend. While friends and family were grilling, lounging by the pool, and shooting fireworks, we all bonded over the Saturday morning test of our recently acquired accounting knowledge.
As I walked out of the exam and overheard colleagues already discussing the next major assignments, I remembered those distant words from orientation: “just keep swimming.” I am learning so much and wouldn’t change the experience for the world, but the reality is that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do for work AND for school. The key to juggling it all is constantly shifting priorities – the goal being not to let any one item drop. I’m learning that every class doesn’t need the same amount of preparation each week, and a professor will understand if some weeks you can’t prepare as much as others. Case in point: I’m going to hit my management paper hard this week now that the accounting exam is over.
Before the program started, my manager met with me to review my priorities and take some responsibility off my plate. Having completed Columbia’s EMBA program while being part of a start-up, he knew better than I did how life would become. I have to admit that I was a little offended that he implied I couldn’t juggle it all.
During the past week I realized that he was right. The WEMBA program has an immediate, positive impact on many areas of my work, but overall, I cannot devote the time I want to every task anymore. At work, I’m learning to lean on my team more, and also to leverage experts to help my company improve and become more efficient. I’m still figuring out how to manage it all, but I just keeping telling myself: you’ve got to just keep swimming.
Christy Luquire lives and works in New Orleans and is a first-year student in Wharton’s Executive MBA program.
Her previous posts on Poets&QuantsforExecs: