The Juggling Act

Sometimes inspiration comes out of desperation.  It was just so this evening after a two hour marathon team call to review our consulting report for Strategy.  After discussing every matrix any consulting firm has ever developed, and evaluating not just our firm but every firm in the industry against these matrices, my eyes were crossing.  As we were wrapping up our call, my teammate Shaliz Afshar made sure to announce that finals were soon around the corner.  With only a week to go and so much to do for assignments, not to mention final plans for Russia, wrapping up Q2 at work, unpacking from India (which I’m ashamed to say still has not been completed), and all the other normal things like brushing one’s teeth I had to take a deep breath.  I might have shared an emoticon on Skype that portrayed my “uneasiness” as well.

It was in this moment that my sidekick Ravi Bansal popped online.  As each of us in the CCMBA program will attest, there is always that one person in the program that knows exactly what is going with you and can empathize with you so you don’t feel alone.  Here was my conversation with Ravi…and this is how I was inspired to write this blog post.

[5/30/2012 11:45:54 PM] Jordan Cathleen Lofton: bleh..i can’t believe finals are right here

[5/30/2012 11:45:57 PM] Jordan Cathleen Lofton: this is crazzzzyyy

[5/30/2012 11:46:12 PM] Ravi Bansal: i know

[5/30/2012 11:46:44 PM] Ravi Bansal: i have stopped looking at finance i need to start looking at it again but just need to get my dumb part in strategy done

 [5/30/2012 11:47:04 PM] Jordan Cathleen Lofton: i feel like a juggler

[5/30/2012 11:47:28 PM] Jordan Cathleen Lofton: if i can just toss this ball high enough in the air i can catch the next ball and then toss it up and so forth

Of course I am a nerd so I had to look up juggling and find out how it is done.  As if somehow learning to juggle balls would help me juggle responsibility.  It was this YouTube video that caught my eye and not only made me laugh, but think that there might be some practical applications for what we’re going through with juggling the CCMBA.

First watch Charlie then keep reading.  :)

YouTube Preview Image

So as you can see there is a process to learn how to juggle.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  On day one Charlie could barely even catch one ball going hand to hand, but after 8 days of practice and slowly increasing the difficulty Charlie developed a rhythm.

Not surprisingly experts say this same process of “learning to juggle” happens with juggling tasks.

  • Step 1 - Selecting the Right Things to Juggle – before you even begin you have to actually understand what the tasks are you’re about to manage and in some way determine their priority to you.  You don’t have to pick up every task, like unpacking for instance, you just have to juggle the most important ones.
  • Step 2 - Start With Only One – Just as Charlie started with only one ball and practiced tossing it from left to right, experts say that’s how you begin to juggle responsibilities.  By focusing on just one task or project you’re able to learn the rhythm of catching, throwing, and shuffling that is necessary to juggle.  Sooner or later it starts to feel like a well-oiled machine.  Looking back on it, that feels like what work was before I was in the CCMBA program.  I learned how to juggle work really well.
  • Step 3 - Add In Another Task- Now that there is a good balance going on you can add another task or project.  The goal is to move seamlessly from one task to the other without missing a beat.  Work and school, school and work, work and school, school and work….School….ooops work dropped….I’ve felt a lot like Charlie in the Day 2 section.
  • Step 4 – Full Blown Multi-Tasking – Now you’re ready for the biggest test of all….life, work, school.  The trifecta of juggling acts.  In this perfect balance all of your scores are SPs, you earn the promotion at work, and every single person in your family and all of your friends see you as much as they so desire.  Oh yes, and the bags from India are unpacked.  As you can tell I’ve progressed to attempt Step 3 (barely) at this portion of the program.

With that said, I head off to bed past midnight, awaiting my alarm clock, morning rush hour traffic and perfectly scheduled 9am meeting.

To quote Charlie, “Challenge completed.  I can juggle.  Gesticulation.  Awkward ending.  The end.”


Get The Most Out of Your MBA

So here we are, half way through our Duke Cross Continent journey, and at this point we know what to expect when The Box comes or what Finals week looks like during a busy work week.  We know how much we enjoy Residencies and team meetings during Distance.  So we have been posed with a question from other MBA hopefuls to find out what are some ways to get the most out of your program.  Here are a few tips that our Duke CC-MBA 2012 class has compiled and my best attempt to give some advice on how to put them into practice.

Tip #1 – Always say YES when faced with a new opportunity. – from Debbie Barabe – Throughout the MBA process and in your career you’ll often be presented with the chance to do something different and out of your comfort zone.  When you signed up for an MBA you more than likely signed up to add a skill set to your résumé.  So when opportunities come along to do something that is out of the norm for you, take them.  If you’re a CPA volunteer to do a Marketing case.  If you’re a Marketer, volunteer to do an Accounting assignment.  It’s only by saying “Yes” to a new opportunity that the new skill sets you’re aiming for with an MBA will be obtained.

Tip #2 – Gain perspective. Be open to new and different ideas. – from Kevin Wakefield – The Duke CCMBA program takes us to new and exciting locations, but if you go into each place looking to embrace the similarities you still only walk away with one angle.  By being open to new and different ideas you get to look at the same place with a new slant.  That same philosophy can apply to an organization.  If you only look at an organization from your team’s point of view or are only interested in following your processes you will not be able to approach the issues in the bigger picture.  Instead, try to put yourself into a “foreign land” and look at each issue from the perspective of another team or even from your customers point of view.  By learning to think like this in your MBA program you can grow leaps and bounds in the work place.

Tip #3 - Make the most of the time spent with your classmates! – from Tyler Roehm – When we wrote our entrance essay we were asked to share what about our backgrounds would benefit other students.  One hundred fifty of us wrote an essay on that and Duke thought the answer was pretty good.  So when meeting your classmates and talking to them, make the most of that time and find out what some of those reasons are.  A conversation you have today about someone else’s work may be something that becomes a door to another possibility later on.  If nothing else you’ve gained another great friend in your MBA program.

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