It can be really hard to find time to study in between class weeks on the EMBA. Here are some tips on how to make the most of the time available.
During class week, you get to focus 100% on studying, all day. It’s intense, but you don’t have time for anything else. Immediately afterwards, you go back to your busy professional and personal schedule - but with an added caveat - you need to study for the next set of exams and you have a ton of reading to do for the next class week. Help!
Many of us consider studying to be what you did when you were at university aged 20 - sitting down at a table, surrounded by books, calculator, pens and laptop, concentrating only on the work in front of you. Personally, this setup describes a minority of my study time - any more than 3 hours and my brain starts to melt. During the week I’m too tired after work to do this kind of work so I can only do this at weekends.
So, I have to prioritise carefully. I use this time to actively do problems, write essays or summaries, or work hard on understanding something very complex. I don’t use these sessions for reading or note-taking, because I am able to do these less difficult tasks in other contexts, as you’ll see below.
Use this type of study time wisely - plan how much you can realistically do each week and choose the work that most requires this kind of quiet, uninterrupted time.
I’m often accompanied during these sessions by one of my cats. In the first picture you see ginger kitty assisting me with some macroeconomics past paper questions.
You will typically need to read anything from 200 to 500 pages between class weeks (keep in mind the difference in program format between the European and Asian week long class sessions and the North America every-other-weekend sessions). I like to read a textbook chapter, or a set of class notes, all the way through first, seeking to get a broad understanding. Then, I come back later and take notes.
I do quite a lot of this initial reading on the train - I do a lot of train travel between London and Scotland. There is background noise, anything from others chatting to children screaming or loud Glaswegians getting drunk, but this is ok as I’m not seeking to really focus hard, just take it in and get a general idea. I don’t take notes on the train as there isn’t room.
You could do your reading on your train or bus commuting to work during the week. It’s also something you can do in the staff restaurant over lunch.
If you drive, consider getting the audiobook version of some of the popular finance and economics titles that are assigned reading and listening to these as you drive to work.
On a Saturday morning, having had a 5 hour train journey the night before, I tend to be tired. So, this is where I sit up in bed while drinking my morning coffee, and take notes on the material that I have read during the week.
This will take you much less time than if you hadn’t done the reading beforehand and will deepen your understanding of the material. You can also do this while sitting in front of the TV in the evening at home, sitting in your car waiting for your kids to finish their tae kwon do class, or in your hotel room when travelling on business. Even if you don’t use the notes later, you will retain a lot more than if you just read this once [my undergraduate cognitive psychology textbook said this too, btw, so it’s not just me].
In picture 2 are my two kitties “assisting” me with some Corporate Finance note-taking.
The most important thing of all is to get adequate sleep. I’m someone who needs many hours of sleep nightly, so over the years I have just learned to adjust my schedule so I get enough rest. This means, for example, not going to the pub more than twice in any class week.
If you aren’t awake and alert, studying is a waste of time. Your brain will be too tired to take anything in. I have to learn this lesson again every few months, but it’s worth it. Sometimes cutting your reading short for the evening and getting an extra hour in bed makes all the difference.
As you might imagine, my cats are champion sleepers. (bottom picture)
Donnla - EXP19