Always busy, all the time: favorite lessons from the first half

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Business school gets the reputation of being a two year holiday filled with travel, catching up on sleep and partying. But I can’t say that’s been my experience to date. Instead, I am always busy, all the time. The schedule here is very rigorous – it entails an early morning discussion group (whom I really do enjoy waking up to!), followed by 2-3 classes, coffees, lectures or corporate presentations, entrepreneurial ventures, evening activities. Somehow, we also manage case reading in between.

To that end, I have learned a tremendous amount about various subjects, myself, and how to work effectively in academia as an adult. Here are the lessons I’ve enjoyed the most from this year so far:

  1. The best way to get people to like you is to get them to do a favor for you. This is hands down my favorite lesson of the semester, since it works counter to what I would have assumed. The psychology is that if you are trying to win someone over, by having them do a favor for you it allows them to think that you are the kind of person they would do something nice for, which means they must believe that they would like you in order to do that. I give Benjamin Franklin full credit for this.
  2. Transparency and communication are the most effective way to get anything done. This one has come up at least once in every single course – being transparent by communicating motives, assumptions, and information unique to each person in a group can solve the vast majority of organizational and financial issues institutions face.
  3. Within an organization, transferring learning is an enormous challenge. When you think about organizational states of knowledge on a scale of total ignorance to robust procedural knowledge, there is a combination of art and science required. Don’t underestimate the efficiency of structural learning and institutional knowledge as you reshape teams.
  4. Know what your expected rate of return is for every investment you make, (which can broadly be extrapolated as: understand the risks and rewards over every decision, whether it is an investment of time, money or effort). This may seem obvious, but when you have as many overlapping opportunities competing for your time as we have recently, using this framework helps me assess tradeoffs every day.
  5. Frequent introspection and self-reflection are critical. Take time to evaluate what you have learned, who you have met, and what you enjoy. This introspection has also enabled me to prioritize my schedule more effectively. HBS has been a great forcing function for making this a recurring practice, and I find that I’m much more self-aware than I was before.
  6. Bonus: not everyone washes their hair every day (Suave case). I am honestly truly surprised to learn this!
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Always busy, all the time: favorite lessons from the first half

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