At a certain point in the MBA application season, fatigue starts to set in. You’ve already completed one, two, how many b-school applications? You’re trying not to lose your marbles, because every application has its own moving parts and unique requirements. Yay.
In case you were wondering, we recommend that you apply to at least 3-5 programs in a season, and here’s why!
Doing the research, writing, and revision necessary to complete your remaining applications might be the last thing you feel like doing — and YES, revision is necessary if you want to submit the best possible applications. Chances are you also have one of those job things (anyone get the Friends reference?) and spending your precious free time writing essays, researching schools, and prepping for interviews isn’t exactly your idea of a good time.
I’m sorry to tell you, the fatigue is inevitable. Applying to graduate school is a lot of work and, ultimately, a labor of love. But if and when a lack of motivation strikes, we’ve got all the tips and tricks you’ll need to power through!
So how do you get inspired to do those BIG important tasks that have to get done, even (or especially!) when you don’t feel like it?
Believe me, I know what that don’t-wanna-do-it syndrome feels like. Working through a seemingly endless list of application to-dos is a lot like writing a dissertation. Sometimes it feels like you’re crawling down a gravel road with no end in sight. “Everything hurts and I’m dying.” AMIRIGHT?
Here at Career Protocol, we believe there are many ways to reach a state of inspiration, and some of the most effective routes are the most seemingly indirect. To help get you out of the application slumps, we put our brains together and came up with the best possible ways to get fired up and face down your application demons. Here’s what we came up with.
10 ways to GET INSPIRED about your MBA applications and hurdle whatever roadblock is standing between you and productivity bliss. To start us off, here are some heavy hitters from our founder, Angela Guido!
#1 Watch a Pixar movie
I know. This is very on-brand for us. What can I say? We’re all about good stories, inspiring heroes, and, well, joy. As Angela has shared with our clients time and again, Pixar movies are fantastic models for how to tell a compelling narrative, so even beyond the inspiration and feel-good factors, they’re great fodder for planning your personal narrative essays. Notice the key scenes and defining moments that let you into the mind of a character and make you root for their success. (That’s how you want the reader of your essay to feel!!) Even more importantly, enjoy the experience and savor the rush of emotions that any Pixar movie is bound to excite.
#2 Do something kind for someone
Doing something for another person — be they friend, family, or a perfect stranger — is one of the best feelings in the world. Practicing kindness can turn even the crappiest days around, and it can be a fantastic way to get yourself feeling motivated. Do something that surprises them and really uplifts their day, then watch what unfolds in your own headspace and world.
#3 Remind yourself of who you are
I’ll let her say this one in her own words:
Get out your resume and take a look. Look closely at the achievements you’ve produced so far in your life. Then take a moment and reflect on the values and commitments that led you to those achievements.
Accomplishments in and of themselves are not that interesting or differentiating in most cases. There is always someone who did it better or did more.
But the values and commitments that you cherish are who you truly are. They’re part of the ineffable realm of love and being and truth. Whenever I do this exercise, I get very full of myself — in a good way! I remember who I am, what I'm made of, and what drives me. It's like seeing my highest self staring back at me from between the lines of the resume.
#4 Move your body
Walk away from the computer, literally. Go do something physical (something you enjoy) that gets your blood pumping. It can be anything — explore a new neighborhood on a long walking adventure (like Louise does!), throw a frisbee in the park, get your karate on, rollerblade.
This will go one of two ways: If you’re anything like me, the minute you start doing something with your body besides staring dejectedly at a blank page, the creative juices start flowing and all those things you were trying to work out start working themselves out, bit by bit. (I try to have my phone handy for notes.)
OR, if you’re someone who genuinely succeeds at clearing your mind from the issue at hand, that’s great too!! Getting mental and physical distance means you’ll have a clear mind and better perspective when you get back to it.
#5 Get caffeinated
This one is simple enough, but not to be underestimated. When you turn to face those dreaded bits of the application process, bring your favorite caffeinated beverage with you. Making a warm mug of tea or a strong cup of joe before you get started on a challenging task has benefits beyond the caffeine — it helps set the tone and gets you amped up for productivity.
#6 Do it on a Saturday morning
A Saturday morning is a beautiful thing. The whole world seems a little quieter. Sit down to work on your applications during these golden hours, with a fresh mind, open hours ahead of you, and no distractions. You’ll be thrilled about what you can accomplish. AND you’ll get the rest of the weekend to yourself as a reward for powering through it!
#7 Reward yourself afterwards (and decide on the reward in advance)
Sometimes the best way to get yourself going is good old-fashioned bribery. Decide how you’ll reward yourself in advance — that is the guiding force, after all — and when you’ve finished the task at hand, order your favorite takeout, book a massage, or craft your favorite cocktail. “Whatever it takes to make you feel like you earned it!”
Time for another tip from Louise Loeb, our resident improv expert! In her own words:
#8 Watch a stand-up comedy special
“The most successful stand-up comedians are natural storytellers, who connect to large audiences with ease through humor. Whenever I try to find my own unique voice, I pay close attention to how the best comedians communicate their personal stories in humorously relatable ways. George Carlin is always annoyed with the world and easily irritated by people's casual stupidity. Jerry Seinfeld is always perplexed by the minutiae of quotidian life. Ali Wong always wants to take the lazy way out because ‘she doesn't want to work anymore’ and would rather not ‘lean in,’ but ‘lie down’ instead…Watching stand-up comedy inspires me to figure out my own point of view on a variety of topics [and] question my own habits or thoughts in order to see my flaws and vulnerabilities. Owning my vulnerability gives my voice power…
And, finally, a couple of my own personal faves to round it out:
#9 Set yourself an easier task and complete it
Maybe you haven’t done the dishes, or the laundry, or some other mundane task that you said you would do, and you haven’t. The feeling of accomplishment, of productivity, of doing what you know to do, is intoxicating. And you can recreate that larger feeling with little things! Pick something from your to-do list that’s actually pretty easy to accomplish, and get it done. Then ride that high of accomplishment into a more difficult task on the to-do list. Feeling good about yourself when demotivation strikes works wonders.
#10 If all else fails, introduce some structure with Daily Dos
This is my version of Nike’s, “Just do it.” You want to be inspired when you work on your applications — especially the essays — because that’s when your best self shines through. But sometimes what’s actually missing is a little structure.
I never could’ve made it through the various stages of a PhD program if I hadn’t set myself daily tasks that just had to be done, period. That was the (self-imposed) rule. Sitting down to work on applications for a certain number of hours or tasks per day — the basic notion behind a Daily Do — may not be feasible, but you can block out chunks of time on certain days of the week (or even on one day) where you sit in front of the computer, no matter what, and give your applications their due time.
That’s all the inspo advice the Career Protocol team has for you today! I hope our ideas have sparked some excitement for you and that the tough but totally-worth-it road ahead looks a little brighter.
Hang in there, friend, and happy trails.