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My Juggling Act

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm an organized person -- even obsessively so. I love to plan and put things in order just right, and I'm hugely detail-oriented. Luckily, this kind of behavior comes in handy when you go back to school: Finding a balance between work, school, and life in general is easier when you have a plan.

Unfortunately, the flip side of my structured nature is that I don't respond well to chaos (or, let's face it, change in general). It's not that I can't handle a shift in my plan here or there, but having to scrap a plan and start over? That's really not my strong point.

But that's the thing about juggling school, work, and life in general. Sooner or later, you're bound to drop the ball -- it's inevitable. And I dropped it in a big way last week.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on vacation. True, it wasn't the best timing. But the trip involved 20 people -- my family, my husband's family, a friend from college -- and had been in the works for more than a year.

It can be hard enough to pull off a vacation when you're working full-time, and it's even more difficult when you're going to school part-time. But sometimes, it's worth it. This one certainly was: We went on a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary.

And the vacation wasn't even the problem. I put my planning skills to the test, and they aced it. I got work in order, got the house in order, and even turned in a paper and economics homework early to make up for my absence.

It was a fabulous vacation -- so great that I put both work and school out of my mind. I even padded my vacation days so I had time to catch up with the mail and other housekeeping. I won't lie: I was pretty proud of myself. (Cue the foreshadowing.)

And then I got sick. With the flu. And I was down for the count for almost a week.

I became so unorganized that I didn't even have a plan. Any other time, I would ease back into life slowly, giving myself time to develop a plan. Now that I'm in school, that approach is a luxury I can't afford. I already missed one week's worth of class in a six-week term. Easing back in wasn't an option.

So, I've been plugging along, catching up on reading, getting through e-mail, working on assignments, and slowly crossing off my to-do list, bite by bite. For the time being, I had to scrap my plan and just get to work. I'm starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel -- I can tell because I made a plan for the week this morning.

But here's the deal: I think this is one of the best possible things someone can get out of business school -- learning how to adapt. It's not that I don't have to adapt for my job; I work for an Internet company, so it's practically a given. But there's something about the constraints of school -- and possibly the tuition I'm shelling out -- that makes the repercussions of the classroom more daunting.

It may be the ivory tower, but there's more to take away than management theory and supply and demand (still the extent of my economics know-how). In the real world, plans get scrapped all the time. Maybe the funding gets pulled or the CEO rethinks her vision -- it doesn't really matter why when you're too busy trying to figure out what next.

What do you think? Am I still reeling from my discarded plan, trying to console myself with looking on the bright side? Or could it be that one of the best things we take from an MBA program isn't the theory or the networking, it's the improved ability to juggle?

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