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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting back on the proverbial horse...

****Posting from the plush comfort of the Las Vegas Airport*****

Mood: Determined (to get back on track)

Song: What the Hell by Avril Lavigne (keep reading on...)

Random musing(s):   

As annoying as having a 3 leg flight back home from Philly, where I was at a conference this week, the positive is that it makes my Frequent Flier accounts happy!  Flying direct would perhaps take only 5 hours, but I earn 4812 miles (doubled by airlines).  With the 3 legs, I get more mileage (6452 total to be exact)!

As you might have deduced...I'm kind of a procrastinator and have been handsomely rewarded for my bad habits :).   I did some crafty sleuthing for this last minute flight and searched two one-ways on Orbitz, (much cheaper than booking a round-trip on Orbitz), fiddled around with filters, then booked this ticket through eBates which gives me cash back for shopping.   The result? A red-eye out and this crazy route through Vegas back for less than I was originally planning on paying.  What else was I going to do? Blog? Sleep? Study? Angry Birds? I can do that on the plane with an endless stream of beverages!  Apparently there are several websites to help you calculate the potential miles when choosing plane tickets, if you are interested in that sort of thing ;)

Dear Friends, Family, and random readers of Por Que MBA:

I have a confession to make: I've not been good.  The other day I was driving in my car to the gym and Avril Lavinge’s latest song came on: “All my life I’ve been good but now, oooh I’m thinking what the hell”  I won’t get started on her lyrical abilities or her "relationship" with the Hills "star" Brody Jenner (Really? Matching tattoos?) but this song struck a chord with me, no pun intended. 

Taken into the context of my B-School preparation, I’ve not been good as I was with my preparation, and am seriously thinking, what the H--- is going on because I need to get back on track!  Since my decision late last year to apply, I’ve been so focused, up to the point of constant immersion with B-School dreams and information.  Unfortunately in last month or so, my preparation has weaned and my GMAT studying has been minimal. 

There are several things to blame (myself first and foremost), in no particular order of significance:

5. Travel schedule, consisting of on-site client work/conferences/workshops during the day and catch up at night.  With the last month, my schedule has been totally caddywhompus due to some last minute business trips, which where snuck onto my calendar.  My study schedule, especially with study buddy "H" had gotten off kilter and it has been difficult to stay focused. My boss has assured me that July will be slower in terms of travel, where as last July I was on the road 3 out of 4 weeks.  I remind myself that the last time he said that, I flew out last minute to Singapore shortly after.

4.  Distractions in social life; spending time with friends/people of the opposite gender and a sudden spike in out of town friends visiting and staying with me.  I've resolved to tourniquet these social distractions...we'll see how well it works!

3. Doubt! Other than being a fantastic movie in my DVD blue ray collection which I have yet to watch, doubt is an incredible deterrent from preparing, and throughout the process, reasons to not apply have kept coming back.  The price tag of the education is pretty steep, which can’t be ignored.  Timing for going next year as opposed to later, where I can build up additional experiences.  All the reasons referenced in previous posts.  I’ll probably continue coming back to this, but even as I have committed to at least APPLYING, doubt is like crack to my procrastination.

                       This is what I felt like before....but replace "World" with "GMAT"

2. No set deadline for taking the GMAT - it is hard when you have an amorphous amount of time to prepare.  I will continue this thought below...

1. LIFE.  You will always find some other excuse to get occupied.  In all honesty, for a short period of time, I was loathing studying because it was so discouraging, I kept forgetting the same basic math concepts relating to exponents and number theory.  I got simple questions wrong, and I had the hardest time getting back into good study habits.

Then I read this Poets & Quants article, which correlated increased GMAT Scores (10 pts) to a rise in salary ($3,000).  I'm usually skeptical about these things and am not obsessing about graduating salary at this point, but I realized the overall message - the better you do on the GMAT, the better your chances are of getting into your dream school (regardless of how high it ranks or selectivity) and then the better your odds are of getting to that dream job.  In the scope of things, prioritizing GMAT studying for a few months could yield great results.  Besides, when I put my mind to something and I do well, the satisfaction makes it all worthwhile!  I know I might have slacked recently, and tend to be hard on myself for these sorts of things, but it's not too late to get back on track.

This brings me to my latest dilemma. I recently had a positive performance review in which my company highlighted areas where they want me to play a greater role in.  Recently, an opportunity has emerged with an open, "unclaimed" region in our client portfolio;  an exotic international region which I’ve had longtime interest in.  I’m contemplating asking my supervisor to take over that area; I currently manage one of our largest East-Coast portfolios.  In turn, I could possible share my current region with another new associate and mentor them.  Obviously my work load will be much heavier, but will the rewards be worthwhile?

The dilemma lies in how to balance my current and future workload, "distractions" of any sort and GMAT prep.  I think this is something that other MBA hopefuls also struggling with – whether to take on added responsibilities that might propel us to higher levels, challenge us, increase confidence from our supervisors, and that offer a diversity of learning experiences to draw from, but juggling that with GMAT/B-School preparation.  When I’m not working, I feel like I need to be studying, and often when I’m on the road my work/personal time boundaries are blurry. 

Meaning, getting back to the hotel after a long day of on-site work, I can either catch up on work that I’ve missed during the day, study the GMAT and work on B-school research, sneak in a workout or soak in the hotel jaccuzzi.  All while watching CSI Miami in the background, though its hard to multi-task with David Caruso’s one liners :)

                                 check out this new place in Philly - you won't be disappointed!

Case in point: this past week, I’ve been working the conference and my Monday consisted of conference craziness 8-6, updating team notes 6-8, dinner with co-workers 8-10 at delicious Barbuzzo , and catching up on work from 10-midnight.  The next day, I woke up for a 6:30 a.m. Webinar presentation to a new client in Bahrain before hitting the conference again. 

Where was GMAT studying in all of this? Embarrassingly enough, absent, much like my patience for spotty wireless, dang you AT&T mobile card!  The last thing I want to do after working all day is crack open the GMAT book, even though its staring at me from my hotel nightstand.

Two take aways:
A:  Standing on your feet in heels all day is a pain.  LITERALLY.  I proudly admit I’m a shoe girl and I love my heels.  Bring two pairs of shoe and rotate out, as the pain is from pressure points on the foot which would then be distributed.  Different shoes impact different pressure points, and that should help alleviate the pain.  

B: Find ways to stay motivated about the application process and remain immersed in B-School thoughts.  I try not to lose sight of these goals.  Through my networking at the conference, I met several educational entrepreneurs which I plan on following up with, and a graduate of Kellogg who currently works there.  Speaking with them provided me with an idea of what I can do with the MBA and kept me reminded that I need to keep moving forward. During the breaks, I would check the GMAT flashcard app on my phone from Veritas Prep and Beat the GMAT.

I guess the biggest news to share, is that….*drumroll please*….for the indecisive girl that procrastinates like crazy… I've FINALLY signed up for the GMAT!  The magic date is August 8th - I feel like this needs to be made into a fridge magnet like the “Save the Date!” wedding ones that I’m starting to receive, and passed out to my friends for them to stick on their fridges.  This way, they can be reminded of the duration of and why I’m going into hiding and that their attempts to flaunt anything entertaining or time consuming will be flatly rejected.

Frighteningly enough, that’s less than 5 weeks away!!!!  However, I've realized that the only way for me to truly be serious and focused about studying is to have a date set on the calendar.  That way, I can see the end in mind and work towards it intently.

I’ve cleverly scheduled the test on Monday.  I originally was going to do it on a Friday but my study buddy “H” so astutely remarked that it would be wiser to schedule on a Monday so that I could spend the weekend studying, instead of stressed out from working.  I take the test at 8am on Monday, and those who know me know that I'm definitely not a morning person. Uh oh.

Here's the best part: That Friday, I fly to Vegas with my room mate and a gaggle of our girlfriends to celebrate our birthdays - her’s is in August, mine is in September.  My actual birthday is close enough to Round 1 apps that I plan on having a cupcake and mai tai shipped to the public library where I’ll be holed up battling writer's block, rules banning candles and alcohol be damned!  It will be my very first time in Vegas...I've never had a strong desire to go but I figure it will be shortly after the GMAT and I'll either need to celebrate, or make some terrible decisions so that I can feel better about my score. Ha.  Just Kidding. I'm starting to panic as it really is, crunch time.  

My strategy for the next few weeks will consist of:

1. Taking a practice test weekly, in the similar environment as the testing center.  Actually follow through with Analytical Writing a few of the times, use the CAT that Manhattan GMAT and the Official GMAT offer, use earplugs and mimic the testing center conditions.

2. A dedicated study schedule that will follow, as closely as possible, 2 hours on week days and 5 hours on weekends.  I have the entire Manhattan GMAT series to work through.
3. Detailed analysis and drilling of my weak spots.  So far, it's still Data Sufficiency, anything with probability and permutations, Sentence Correction here and there.  Finding a way to stay alert through those dreaded Reading Comprehension passages.

I have a 5 day weekend for this 4th of July and was planning on camping at the Coast, but fully intend on using most of the time to catch up on studying.

I hope to be updating this blog more frequently as I near the first round of application deadlines!

As I post this from the Las Vegas airport amidst the clanging of the slot machines, I leave you with two questions and a request for your thoughts / advice:

1. Would you recommend taking on additional responsibilities at work to grow, knowing it could cut into that precious study time or use that time to focus on GMAT and B-School preparation?

2.  How do you stay focused on GMAT preparation, and study strategies, when there seems to be distractions all around?  

Thank you all for reading!!  Seeing the increase in traffic to my blog is definitely encouraging, and being featured on one of my favorite MBA websites, Poets and Quants is huge honor.   I hope to keep you all inspired and entertained as we schlep our way through this journey called applying to B-School!

Running to catch a flight (as always),

Mango