Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How We Spend Our Time in Business School

London Business School doesn’t tell us how to use the 168 hours in a week; how we spend our time is (mostly) up to us. Based on my first four months here, here’s a rough breakdown of the options:

·Classes: 10 to 17 hours / week. Since some core courses last the entire 10 week term, other classes for 3 to 5 sessions (e.g. Ethics, IT for Business Value, and Strategy Problem Solving), and skills courses just 1 day (e.g. Listening and Observing, Persuading and Influence, Negotiating, Public Speaking), each week’s schedule is different. During a busy week in November, for instance, I had:

o Corporate Finance from 8:15am to 11:00am and Strategy from 3:45pm to 6:30pm on Monday
o Accounting 8:15am to 11:00am, Managerial Economics from 12:45 to 3:30, and Accounting Application from 5:15pm to 7:00pm on Tuesday, and
o Organizational Behavior from 8:15am to 11:00am and IT for Business Value from 12:45pm to 3:30pm on Wednesday.

·Breaks between classes: around 2 hours / week. Our lectures are 2:45 min long with a 15-20 minute break in the middle. I mention this separately because so much of learning – and business – happens in random conversations while on line at an on-campus coffee bar, where you’ll usually find us during these breaks.

·Study group work: 5 to 10 hours / week. We were assigned study groups of 6-7 people that we do all our group assignments with during the 1st year. My group, nicknamed Beauport, has an Aussie corporate lawyer, a Filipina social enterprise manager, an Egyptian consultant, myself (an American consultant and banker), and two Brazilians: an engineer and a private wealth manager. We meet weekly for an hour to plan how we’ll allocate group work, then meet again in smaller groups to execute each project, before coming together (usually over email) to finalize the submission. Beauport has always worked really smoothly together, with complementary skills and work styles. We could probably get our projects done a bit faster if that were the primary goal, for instance by assigning team members experienced with financial modeling to do all the Corporate Finance assignments. But our team’s main objective is to learn and support each others’ learning, so we’ll typically involve at least one person who already understands the material and one who really wants to understand it.

·Homework: 5 to 10 hours / week. Many (though not all) classes at LBS have regular pre-reading and individual assignments. Most of the learning though takes place during the lecture itself or on group projects.

·Sports: up to 7 hours / week. Volleyball teams. Squash lessons. Pilates classes. Running in neighboring Regent’s Park. One of the wonderful things about being a student is being able to do sports on teams, at leisure, and in the middle of the day rather than after an exhausting day of work and before a late dinner (or worse, at 6am!).

·Clubs and Organizations: 10 to 30 hours / week. Planning the inter-stream leap frog competition. Discussing web design for the CleanTech Challenge. Researching UK water policies as part of a joint UCL-London Business School pro bono consulting project. With dozens of active clubs and non-official groups, there’s never a shortage of interesting things to get involved in.

·Competitions: up to 20 hours / week. Competitions range from those like the CleanTech Challenge and the Global Social Venture Competition, where teams submit their own business ideas, to case competitions where a sponsoring company or organization selects a particular case to analyze and present.

·Recruiting: 2 to 30 hours / week. For finance and consulting jobs, networking and company presentations started last term. From January to mid-February their summer internship application process is in full force: researching companies, meeting LBS alumni who work there, writing thank you notes, writing cover letters, polishing resumes, preparing answers to interview questions, studying the industry… For those applying to 10 or 15 firms, recruiting is truly a full time job. Those of us looking for jobs in industry, however, have a longer and less structured recruiting process, mostly through clubs, activities, and our networks.

·Meeting your classmates: 20+ hours. Catching up at the pub, over lunch, in the hallways, with your flatmate, at weekly Sundowners, on the way back from volleyball practice, on your way to the library, at the library, on the night bus after a late night out, waiting in the halls for a presentation: talking with classmates truly is one of the best parts of an MBA, and an activity we all make plenty of time for.

·Sleeping: around 50 hours / week. Because our schedules are so flexible, it’s not hard to stay healthy and well-rested. While there’s more than enough to do to stretch yourself thin, there’s no pressure to do so here. Back in college I recall that we all fell asleep during class sometimes; that almost never happens here. Perhaps after all these years we’ve learned a bit better how to prioritize and manage our own time and resources…

Hope that helps give a feel for the MBA experience. Feel free to email me with any questions at all at

Best of luck,
Liz Aab
MBA 2012 & Forte Fellow
London Business School

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