Strategic Productivity At Work –

In business school, chances are good that you’ve got a pretty crazy schedule, and you’re certainly not alone.

Working all the time has come to be a badge of honor in business. Staying always-on, checking in on vacation, and responding to emails lightning fast is something that is ingrained into business culture today. But is this really a good thing? Not really.

Are you making good decisions and delivering great work when you answer emails on your phone at a baseball game? Probably not. Keeping a long, drawn out schedule is exhausting. When you’re working a 12+ hour day (and yes, checking emails on your phone is working), there’s simply no time to recover and return fresh the next day ready to go. You probably feel “busy,” but you may not necessarily feel productive.

I have struggled with this personally. When my son was born, all of my notions on time management were swiftly thrown out the window. Working at home with him by my side, I had to work all day, and often, well into the night to get things done. I usually felt guilty no matter what I was doing, whether I was working (and not spending good time with my son), or parenting (and not getting work done). But my real problem was not guilt, it was that I wasn’t maximizing my time in either role.

I’ve since been able to discover my productivity sweet spot, and it has completely changed the way I work. Instead of working through dinner, I’m usually done by the afternoon. How? I’ve simply identified the time of day that is best for me to get things done, and I block it out religiously. Compared to my previous method of just working a million hours and hoping it all got finished, I’d say that this one is much more balanced and relaxing.

Obviously not everyone works at home with a newborn, but I’m sure that online students especially can relate to my situation. We all have our own list of excuses that keep us from finding balance in our work day: moonlighting as an MBA student, personal commitments, even high-pressure management roles. But I suspect that many people are making my mistake of confusing “working a lot of hours” with “working a lot.”

The lesson here is to know when it’s time to work, and when it’s time to turn off. This is a habit that is essential to nail down now, while you’re still in business school. It’s tempting to push past your 5:00 work hour to “just send this one little email,” but doing so is draining on morale and energy. You may feel as if you’re getting things done, but really, you’re just stealing time from the next day. And chances are good that you’re not doing your best work at that point anyway. Find your most productive hours, use them to their fullest, and then just stop. Really. Enjoy your relaxation time today without guilt, and you’ll be better prepared to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.

For help discovering the sweet spot in your work day and finding balance, I encourage you to check out this excellent resource from How to Manage Your Work-Life Balance and Reduce Stress. Although it’s written with freelancers and business owners in mind, it’s a great resource for anyone, full of ideas for blocking off time, location, and communication to put a stop to the workaholic lifestyle that threatens to consume students, freelancers, and corporate types alike.