Finding balance in the times of COVID-19 as a working professional student

My tenacious dilute kitten believes that I am possessed by the many screens my eyes stay fixated on throughout the day. Ever the hero, however, she attempts to save me from my trance throughout the day. Like Cobra Kai, she strikes the monitor on my desk and hurls it into the unassuming peace lily. While I sweep up the scattered dirt, she gets her opening to knock my phone and smartwatch off the coffee table and swipe them towards the dark underworld of stolen Christmas ornaments and hair bands behind the couch. I appreciate her trying to earn her keep, but I thought she would save me from these pesky Georgia roaches and spiders, not the blue light monster that emanates from my laptop.

In a way, it’s true. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I fell victim to throwing away my entire routine and forging a new reality: roll out of bed, log into work, sprinkle in my case readings, go back to work, log into Zoom for class, attend class for three hours, and then watch Schitt’s Creek on Netflix until I fell asleep. 

Daily step count: 528.

For a month or two, I relished this routine. This thing was supposed to last only two weeks, right? Might as well enjoy it while I can. However, as the days began to linger on the horizon, I realized I missed the activities that pushed my days along. The morning drive with my hot coffee, plain chicken biscuit, and intriguing podcast. Brisk walks around the lake with co-workers to take a break and gossip about “office affairs.” Rushing to Orangetheory so I could claim a treadmill card before they were all taken. Catching a baseball game at the Battery or a soccer game at the stadium. And of course, the endless weekend traveling, boozing, and brunching with friends without fear.

I eventually found a balance and created a better routine for myself by embracing the following habits.  

  1. Communicate clearly – Communication is key to maintaining a healthy work and school life balance. As motivated working professionals, a lot of us working longer days and taking on more responsibilities now that we do not see our teams face-to-face. On the days where I feel mentally exhausted from work, I let my team know and they pick up my slack or update me on any missed classes. We keep our webcams on as well when we meet to complete our group assignments. In addition, Goizueta has some of the most brilliant, caring, and approachable professors who will be more than happy to listen to your situation and help you be successful if you are struggling with your class load. Simple things like being honest, showing your face on a webcam, and connecting with your professors build trust and create a healthy space to learn and grow together. Do not be afraid to communicate your needs!
  2. Make time to socialize for fun – Our excellent student government has gone above and beyond to present monthly virtual social events for our professional evening MBA cohorts to network. The career center also provides informal networking opportunities between cohorts and alumni. If networking virtually is not your cup of tea (but it is the future), then I recommend making plans with friends out in nature while following COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. There is no shortage of outdoor activities in Georgia. Go to any nearby office park and take a lap around their lake with friends. Float down the Chattahoochee in our own rafts, hike up Stone Mountain, or walk the Beltline. Having plans outside our daily obligations gives us something fun to look forward to!
  3. Wear proper clothes – As great as it is to roll out of bed and not worry about dressing for the office, it is a good practice to at least change out of your pajamas. I’m not saying go crazy and put jeans on every day, but I have found that dressing for virtual class and  virtual work helps me maintain a level of professionalism throughout the day.
  4. Do something for yourself – These are trying times, and we should not feel guilty if we want to relax or do something special for ourselves. For me personally, this is usually packing some brunch on Sunday mornings and walking down to the river. I dip my feet in, eat my sandwich, journal or listen to music, and wave to people as they float by. For others, it could be a long-distance run in the neighborhood, sleeping in an extra few hours, or making macarons with their kids. Think about what you can do for yourself!
Akshita Angra

Akshita Angra

Akshita Angra is a proud Canadian American Indian who enjoys harvesting fruits from her backyard, jamming to music, and working her way through Oprah's best movies lists in between work and school commitments. She highly recommends the Evening MBA Program at Emory because of the amazing professors, opportunities to network with Alumni, focus on leadership development, and the close-knit community between the cohorts. Feel free to reach out to her at aangra2@emory.edu if you would like to learn more about her experiences.

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