Work-Life Balance: Exam Time

I sit here at my desk at work, waiting for my brother to arrive on one of his days off from flying as a flight attendant around the world to come and have dinner with me.

Yes, you heard right.

He is coming to DC to have dinner with me. He knows the rest of the night will be taken up with writing essays for finals and verifying my templates for my Operations exam this weekend.

With his schedule inconsistencies and my schedule filled with activities from now until, well, May 2018, that is sometimes all I get. A dinner. A drink. A lunch.

However, I wanted to share what is happening this week in real-time (i.e. not a reflective blog post but a stream-of-consciousness blog post):


Those crafty little buggers that pop-up on my calendar about every eight weeks (since Darden is on a Quarter-based program rather than a semester-based program). This week it is:

  1. Global Economy and Markets – Part 2 – focused on emerging markets
  2. Global Leadership Explorations – Part 3 – South Africa
  3. Operations – Part 2 – Supply Stock, Supply Chain, Lean, etc, etc
  4. Action Learning  – Where business school meets business

I would say that I am prepared for the exams, but I still have several hours of studying before I am ready to sit for exams and turn in exam papers.


Exams in the midst of Balancing Life:


Darden Executive MBA Schedule is one of the most demanding schedules I have ever had to integrate into my life. One of my classmates framed this demanding schedule in this post, and quoted here:

You will spend, on average, 25-30 hours a week preparing for class on top of your full time job. As such, you need to be extremely open with those that are close to you so that they are not blindsided by the nature of this new commitment. You will need their full support and help over the next two years, so it’s important that they are fully onboard.

Not every week is 25-30 hours, but most are. Which makes me think the idea of a Work-Life Balance and the Lean In concept are not the way to approach business school when it is part-time.

This is just the choice I made for my life. Nothing more, nothing less. For 21 months, I would forgo other commitments and throw myself into this process with my entire being. After a year of this battle, I thought I may want to write down my averages.

Here is a typical hour breakdown of my week:

  • Class time: Two Evening Classes (3-4 hours)/week
  • Learning Team Meetings: Very dependent on the courses for that week, meet at least once a week. Meetings usually run about 2 hours, give or take.
  • Study Time: Most Professors will say about 2 hours of prep time per class. This is HIGHLY dependent on the subject matter of the class, how much reading is assigned, and the level of understanding I have for the subject matter. Example: Most accounting classes would take about 3 hours of prep time for me since I don’t have an accounting background.
  • Saturday Asynchronous Class: This is either a video recording (1.5 hours), or a written assignment. With the reading involved, I would allocate about 3 hours for the work assigned.

So that is:

  • 3.5 hours of classes/wk
  • 2-4 hours for Learning Team Meetings
  • 4 hours of individual class prep
  • 3 hours for Saturday Class
  • Total: 14.5 hours

But wait, Casey, didn’t you say that it was at a minimum of 25 hours per week? Yep. I did.

Here are all the things that are missing:

  • Career Search – whether looking to advance in your current position or change careers you could easily be working several hours some weeks on resume building, industry research, networking, etc
  • Supplemental Reading – (Casey, Are you serious? Yes, Yes, I am.) Many classes recommend supplemental texts including but not limited to, technical notes, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, other textbooks, the list goes on. You aren’t REQUIRED to read these, but when you are cold called in class, it sure helps to have at least glanced at what is happening in the world of business.
  • General communication between peers and the EMBA staff and faculty – those emails really do add up.
  • Want to be involved in Class Leadership or Club leadership? – That takes time too!

Just like in finance and accounting, I learned that the back of the napkin numbers can be deceiving.

Summing it all Up:

Back in undergrad, there was this saying that is probably still common today.


I want to know when this joke will end. Because that is not the truth. Unless you are a two dimensional person with no other interests, commitments, or just general wonder of the world around you.

I sometimes count myself lucky out of my classmates because I am not married, nor do I have children. But yet, I have relationships that I want to keep strong through this process; family and friends.






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