The D-day is less than 2 months away. Your boss at work may have assigned you to a new project. Or for some reason, you find your workload increased. Days may seem to whiz by you and time is becoming a commodity rarer and more precious than rhodium. You may be finding it hard enough to juggle between work and life and then CAT preparation comes in like a wrecking ball, making things that much more difficult!
So how do you find the balance? Read on to find out!
Why are you giving CAT?
First and foremost, this is a question for which you should have a clear-cut answer. You need to know why you want to reach a destination, for you to carve out a path to the destination. The reasons could be as simple as “I need to earn more than what I am earning now”. The clarity and focus that you have towards your goal is what matters.
Having this clarity can help you find the right motivation to do your best in these final few weeks. Do you feel that you are stagnated in your current role? Is there a lingering feeling that your current degree is not enough for an expedited career progression? Do you feel the need to switch to a different line of work? Answering these questions can reveal to yourself the wants and gaps in your life. And if you can recognise the CAT exam as a gateway to plug these gaps and fulfil your goals, that should give you a real dose of motivation to slog it out in the final few weeks.
You may have done this a while back before you started your CAT prep. But if you find a dip in motivation or find yourself running out of gas in the long arduous journey of CAT, revisiting these questions might help breathe fresh life into your preparation.
Make your own winning strategy
It is important for anyone to choose their battles in CAT. But it becomes all the more crucial to do so when you are juggling between things and your resources are stretched thin. It may not be wise to start a new topic in quants from scratch now. Instead, work on sharpening your skills in the ones that you are strong at. Bring down incorrect attempts and try to improve your accuracy. You should now be working on your question selection strategies, especially in DILR. With just a few weeks to go, your preparation should be structured around mocks and they can test your question selection capabilities under pressure. Knowing your strengths and having a strategy for each of the 3 sections can help reduce the time you mull over trying to figure out which questions to attempt.
All this said and done, you should ideally keep yourself relaxed for the final 2 weeks before the exam. So it would be prudent to plan ahead and take a 2-week or 1-week break from work just before the exam. An advance notice can help your team to plan ahead as well and there are more chances of your request being approved. Not everyone will have the luxury to do this and this is not a “must do” by any means. But for those who can take such leaves, you should be planning ahead for it.
Make every minute count
In the long journey of CAT preparation, every little moment counts and can incrementally add up to have a profound impact. Meaning, that whenever you find a few minutes (even as few as 10 to 15 minutes) for yourself and if you have the mental and physical capacity to utilise it towards your CAT preparation, by all means, do it. It can be solving a couple of quant questions, taking on an RC passage or reading an article. Just ensure to make these minutes count.
Have a consistent schedule for your preparation, mocks and analysis. Work may not allow you to stick to a strict schedule always. But you can always compensate and ensure that you get a good amount of time for CAT on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. If you are someone who finds it hard to ignore work calls, then you can schedule your preparation either a little late into the night or early in the morning. This can keep interferences from work at bay. But be mindful of staying too late or waking too early in the mornings as that can lead to burnout.
Keep distractions at bay
This may sound like cliche boomer gyan, but believe me, it is very pertinent advice to pay heed to. The World Cup is coming up, the Premier League is gaining pace, the Champions League group stages are getting hotter, your favourite animes/ series/ movies may be coming up and your favourite band/stand-up comedian may be coming to town. It is only human to be tempted to immerse yourself in these, enjoy your experience and procrastinate your preparation. But you have to be prudent and learn to tell yourself “No” at times.
This does not mean dialling your hobbies and interests to a 0. It simply means wisely recalibrating the time you wish to spend on these while prioritizing your preparation.
Having the right attitude
Now you may feel that the odds are stacked against you, having to deliver at work and keeping CAT preparation at a steady pace, all the while trying to find yourself some much-needed unwinding time. You may feel that your competitors have a lot more time to better prepare themselves than you. Ultimately, it is what it is and you have to play the cards you are dealt with.
Healthy comparisons with your peers aside, you should focus more on yourself. Instead of fretting over losing the 9-12 hours spent at work instead of CAT preparation, you should focus on making the best of the 2-3 hours that you do get. Make every hour count and be consistent about it.
You must also learn to compartmentalise your work and CAT preparation. Try not to allow the stresses of work matters to spill over to your preparation and vice versa. Having a definite schedule for each can help you separate the two and reset yourself.
And finally, do not be daunted by the possibility of not getting the desired CAT score. CAT is by no means the be-all and end-all of your career. You have chosen to prepare for CAT while continuing to work. This is an option many find difficult to take while some do not even have this luxury of choice. So you should be both proud and grateful for your decision. In the worst-case scenario, you have a fallback option. But this is just Plan B. A last resort. And it should remain that way. Your goal and motivation should be to make Plan A work and I recommend you to go all guns blazing for it.
Prashant is a freshly baked product of the ever-growing MBA-churning institutions that are the Indian B-schools. He has a penchant for the English language and is relishing the opportunity to write informative blogs and occasionally teach as well, to help budding MBA aspirants!