How do you balance test prep and work? Or life, for that matter?
Generally, I recommend you give up sleeping. And personal hygiene. Hopefully, you can stand to lose a few pounds because eating takes a great deal of time…
All kidding aside, it’s terribly important to find the right balance – a balance you can sustain physically, mentally, and financially — because test prep’s going to take time, and I don’t mean one really, really bad weekend of cramming! (Unless you’re really, really strange, you won’t be able to make a substantial improvement in your score overnight; brains, like muscles, need time to grow, so you won’t get either to grow overnight!) In short, you’ll be doing this test prep thing for too long to grin and bear it; instead, you’ll need to take care of yourself.
First, you’re going to have to develop a routine. Sad to say, we’re creatures of habit – it’s just human nature. Much easier to write if you always write; much easier to study if you always study, so force yourself to schedule study time, leaving everything else for the gaps between work and study. So, yes, it’s possible to lug your study materials around, so you can study whenever you get the “chance,” but don’t leave your test prep to chance: SCHEDULE IT!
Second, remember everyone else in your life: they need to get in the habit of not interrupting your routine! If they know that you study from 9 to 11, they’ll learn not to bother you during those hours. If you’re studying whenever you can, they’ll interrupt you because they won’t have any way to know any better!
Third, give yourself every advantage. If you’re going to take the test at 9AM, don’t spend all your study time at 9PM at night – your body needs to get used to working on these matters at the approximate time you’ll be working on these matters. [Ever noticed how football teams seem to play worse in different time zones? It’s not an accident: your body really does have to get used to “playing” at particular time.]
Fourth, get help! As anyone who’s ever tried to weightlift can tell you, it’s easier if you’re working with someone else: we’re social creatures, so we’re naturally inclined to avoid disappointing our partners. You may not realize it, but you’ll study harder and you’ll stick to your schedule when you know there’s someone at Test Prep Unlimited who will be disappointed when you don’t.
Fifth, don’t make this an open-ended obligation. Pick a test date; commit to a schedule (that you’ve developed with Test Prep Unlimited), and stick to it, come hell or high water! Now that may sound counter-intuitive, and, obviously, you may have to change your plans, but I want you to think of your test as the most important appointment you’ll ever make – break it at your peril! Here’s why: you can endure just about anything if you know it’s temporary. If, in the back of your mind, you’re plotting to reschedule, it’ll be far too easy to miss your commitments. (After all, you can always reschedule!)
In the final analysis, you already know how to balance work and other priorities: you build a team; you make a plan, and you stick to it. That’s what made you succeed in your career, and that’s what will make you succeed on your test!
(This article was written by Chris and Michele, who each have a Harvard MBA and a Yale JD and offer MBA Admissions consulting services)