An Affair of Character

A Chicago Fitness Blog by Meg Schneider

Author: anaffairofcharacter (page 2 of 3)

How to Get Excited about Meal Prep

Meal prep conjures up images of plastic black containers filled with small portions of broccoli and chicken. I’m not surprised that meal prep isn’t always that popular. As an MBA student, it’s also really tempting to order takeout after a long day of classes and networking. Here’s what helped me go from sad desk lunches to food I look forward to eating:

Search out DIY versions of the takeout you love. It may seem obvious, but spending 5-10 hours finding and testing recipes can completely change the game. I love ordered drunken noodles from Thai restaurants, and actually look forward to cooking it on my own. Even if the sauces and special ingredients cost an extra ~$10 or so, this was spread over the many non-takeout meals I ate.

Find cute containers. A glass or metal bento box can really make your meal prep seem more appealing. You’ll feel less awkwardness turning down food from the cafeteria.

Use big enough portions. A lot of people try to dramatically change everything at once: going from large portions of calorie-rich food to super healthy portions and ingredients. If you don’t already eat super healthy, consider taking it slower. Start by packing up what you would normally eat for dinner – rather than optimistically hoping to only need half of that portion.

Bring a treat for yourself. Even the best-laid plans for meal prep can fall apart when it comes to beverages and desserts. If you have a box of cookies or candies, portion out a small amount for each day. If you love fancy beverages with your lunch, buy in bulk and have one a day.

Create tangible reminders of the money you are saving. Create a new account and fill it with the money you would have spent on lunch. Depending on you, you may want to digitally transfer this money from your account everyday or use another kind of tracking system. This basically reframes your thinking from a sacrifice (all the delicious food you are NOT eating) to an upcoming treat (a vacation? designer purse? the options are endless…)

The other tip I frequently see is to create a strict schedule of meal prep – ex. always cooking 6 meals on Sunday night. As a student, this kind of rigid schedule doesn’t really work. I would suggest trying to plan 2-3 days of meals out, and looking for pockets of flexibility (~2 hours or so) when you can cook up those meals. This also helps you not get bored as quickly.

I hope these tips help you!

How to Speak Up More in Class

I was talking to a first-year today when she mentioned she never speaks in class. She admitted she felt intimidated and that she always “need more time to think through everything” before she speaks. It wasn’t until my internship that I really learned how to speak more effectively on the spot. Here are a few tips I have learned on how to speak up more in class:

  • Prepare for questions that will be asked. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to focus on the questions asked of you on a recurring assignment. During your first case discussion, write down the questions your professor asks about the case. This will be your “cheat sheet” for the next cases in that class. Make sure to come up with 2-3 points for at least half of those questions.
  • Don’t wait for your comment to be “perfect”. It probably won’t happen! Since the other people in your class are not perfect, this is more likely about your perception/self-confidence than reality. Try to imitate the best parts of their comments- are there certain words or strategic issues that seem to keep coming up? I also make a mental note any time somebody says what i had planned to say – this shows that I was on target for the case.
  • Participate early in the class. Ever notice how there’s a lot of silence at the beginning of class and then a ton of people throwing in their comments at the end? One of the biggest tips I have for speaking up more is to answer those initial questions. This will make it easier to speak again in that class and your point is more likely to be remembered.
  • Answer every question (in your head!). Cold calling can be super painful if you aren’t doing this already. Stay engaged the entire class. I also like to think about my comments in relation to others- do I agree with this person? If not, at what point do I disagree?
  • Challenge yourself to speak up at least once. My final tip would be to reward yourself for speaking up. If you have a class where you feel intimidated, bust out your good tea and treat your self! Even if it wasn’t the most insightful comment, it’s important to create that habit feedback loop.

I hope this helps you speak more in class! Good luck!

What I Learned From My First Hike

I’m a city girl at heart. I have never camped. I don’t have hiking equipment.

But your 20’s are for experimentation, right?

When I saw that Rice was hosting a trip out to McKinney Falls near Austin, I jumped at the chance. Since I am not an avid hiker, I was hoping I would survive!

The first part started off with packing. I had a synthetic long-sleeved shirt from a corporate event, so I decided to wear that. My pale pasty arm skin could remain untouched by the sun. To complete the look, I got a baseball cap and my best shades. It was go time.

We started off by hiking without a map. As you might expect, our group almost immediately took a wrong turn. What looked like the loop trail was actually a rock interpretative trail. Or so we thought!

After some talking, we went back to get a map. We found Onion Creek, and the main waterfalls, as well as a much longer trail (~5 miles). We saw a ton of spiders, caterpillars, and butterflies, and a whole lot of brush. I can’t say it was too scenic. Still, we had a lot of fun talking about school and travelling.

By the end of the day, my feet were HURTING. Reading my mind, the group leader said, “Everybody’s feet hurt after a hike. Everybody gets blisters. Nobody is unique in that aspect.” All I kept thinking was: I can’t wait for dinner!

Overall, it was really great to be out in the sun for a day. I don’t know if I will ever become a master hiker, but it definitely took me out of my comfort zone. To more adventures!

Cookbook Review: Cravings by Chrissy Teigan

One of my personal goals this year was to cook more. I really like baking, and I had never felt like I really had “cooking” under my toolkit. My roommate last year would often gently tease me if I had my go-to waffles, pasta or eggs too frequently. There’s also a ton of free food at business school, so I could get by without contracting scurvy.

I found a really basic cooking forum that had a list of basic tools and recommended cookbooks. I started looking at Marc Bittman’s How to Cook Everything series. From what I’ve read, his cookbooks are wonderful. That said, his writing doesn’t get me excited to cook. It reminds me more of an abstract algebra textbook of flavors.

Once I read Chrissy’s recipe on noodles, I was hooked. She was unapologetic about her love for Stovetop Stuffing, and she explained the entire recipe step by step without any condescension. Most importantly, I felt like I could actually do this!

Cravings by Chrissy Teigan

Cravings by Chrissy Teigan

I also knew I had to start small. In case you don’t know me that well, I can be very “all or nothing”. My first reaction was to try to go out and buy every cookbook. After more rationally deciding that I should start with 1, my first reaction was to get the ingredients at once to try every dish. Unsurprisingly, this approach can lead to completely inaction.

The Results

Continue reading

Learning Gmail Shortcuts for 101 in 1001

I remember one of my undergrad classmates who could respond to 50 emails in about 30 seconds. I have to admit I was jealous of his mad skills. Now, I want to learn the shortcuts myself.

The first step is turning on the keyboard shortcuts within Gmail. Go to settings on the top right, and press “Gmail shortcuts on”. Without this, none of the shortcuts will work.

learning gmail shortcuts

Next, I decided to focus on only a few Gmail shortcuts at a time. I started by thinking about what actions I do the most. I use “Mark as unread’ for any email that will take more than 2 minutes. If an email will take less time, I try to immediately respond.

Forward = f

Reply = r

Send = Control + Enter

Archive =  e

Mark as unread: _

While these are the most helpful for me, I would suggest looking at the the full list of Gmail Shortcuts available. (The shortcut for “reply all” seems dangerous because you could get yourself in trouble though!)

Because I want to get into the habit, I try to disconnect my mouse and still read through my email.

Another tip would be to keep a list of the most common Gmail shortcuts printed out. As a result, you will always have the shortcuts close by at your computer.

In conclusion, the shortcuts are easier than I thought! I already use copy and paste, and these Gmail shortcuts are very similar.

Is it weird to admit I already feel more productive using these Gmail shortcuts the last few days? Let me know on Twitter (@affairofcharact) or Instagram (@affairofcharact) if you are now using some!



MBA Take-home Study Tips

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have a lot more take-homes this term than ever before. While it seems a lot less stressful than an in-person test, a take-home can still be overwhelming.

One of the biggest tips I would give is to keep track of all the deadlines with a calendar app. Even if you pretty much know your schedule, it’s a great way to double-check everything is submitted.

Once you have the schedule in place, then back-track the amount of time you expect each test to take. Also, think about your best times to be productive. For example, I had a six hour strategy final last year. I normally write better in early morning and at night, so I decided to take my test at 8 am. I set alarms for my bedtime and wake up time so I got my “window”.


Treat the test as seriously as in-person. I prepare my coffee and get my whole area set up so I am not walking back and forth. I also don’t leave Facebook or Gmail open. One of my favorite take-home study tips is a to-do list in front of me. Once a test is submitted, I check it off of my calendar and my to-do list.

Back up your test! The thought of a random keystroke destroying hours worth of work keeps me up at night. I normally edit in Google Docs or in a Dropbox file. If my computer does shut down, I’ve only lost the time it takes to get to a library to finish my paper.

The last thing I would mention is that there are often submission issues. If you have an extremely long take-home or many people in your class, your page may crash. Try to have an email set up to your professor or TA just in case.

All in all, i hope my take-home study tips help! Good luck!



The MBA Magic Wand: Become a Different Person

Today is the first day of exams for first-year MBAs. Accounting, finance, and a huge marketing project on top: I remember it really well! Now, I have some group projects and take-home exams. While preparing for one of our group presentations, I was thinking a lot about the elusive MBA magic wand.

We were sitting around a table working on our final presentation. One woman after another mentioned that they didn’t want to close out the presentation. At first, I didn’t say much either. I normally like to present first — and so that’s what I’ve always done. After thinking about it for a second, I decided to volunteer to close. Continue reading

Morning Tips: Wake Up, Beautiful!

I haven’t ever been a morning person. While other people would like to crush marathons at 6 am, I’d rather sleep in and have a nice brunch. I can always walk later 🙂

Here are some tips for better mornings:

Before you sleep:

  • Use a REM cycle calculator. Usually, it’s in 1.5 hour segments (4.5, 6 or 7.5 hours) and you want a buffer of around ~15 minutes for waking up. Never wake up groggy again!
  • Prep a go-to great breakfast. I generally make waffles at the beginning of the week or fry up some eggs. I also have started to freeze some bananas if I am not feeling too hungry.

morning tips for a busy woman

When you wake up:

  • Wake Up Beautiful Playlist; This is inspired by Verily Magazine‘s “best morning playlist”. It starts out slow with piano ballads and ends with some pop rock. It’s totally cheesy but also gets my morning going in a nice way.
  • Try to avoid checking email when you first wake up. I know you are supposed to wait 30 minutes or an hour, but I generally check after 10-15 minutes. I have enough time to shower and make coffee “by myself”. Otherwise, I get distracted thinking about what’s on the docket.

Overall, I focus on starting my day off on my own schedule. The rest of the day may get off track, but those 15-20 minutes are mine! 🙂

Learning to Paddleboard

For this second year of my MBA, I have really been trying to get out of my comfort zone. The old cliche “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. One way I am keeping myself accountable is listing my 101 in 1001 prominently on this website.  Along the way, I’m going to discuss my adventures as I check things off the list! One of the most recent adventures has been learning to paddleboard.

Why now? I love to swim, and kayak—and paddleboarding always looked super fun in magazine spreads! When I saw that the Rice gym had a weekend trip to a surf town in Texas, I signed up!

On the first day, I had to admit I was really nervous. I had no idea if I would be the oldest person there (would there only be freshman?!) or the most unfit. I had had a pretty bad experience trying to do rock climbing while being in the latter category, so it wasn’t completely unfounded when learning to paddleboard. I really wanted to chicken out the night before. I had a ton of work I could do, and I would figure out paddleboarding later…when I was better…more fit…something.

I decided to just go for it anyway, as I had paid the money. When would I next have the opportunity to learn? Luckily, it was a good mix of undergraduates and 1-2nd year graduate students. Rice is thankfully a school known for computer science and pre-med; my fellow surfers were at least as pasty and sun-deprived as me! The student leaders were also extremely friendly and made it a point that everyone felt comfortable introducing themselves.

When we got there, I learned how much EQUIPMENT there is to paddleboarding. You need a paddleboard (not a surfboard–who knew?!), a leash (to hold the paddleboard to your ankle), fins (that you attach), and a paddleboard. After a few minutes of instruction that basically amounted to “try to keep your balance”, we were off! I was pretty happy we were left alone to be honest. I learn better when I have some time to think, rather than having someone peering over my shoulder.

Surprise: I fell down a lot. My knees were literally BRUISED from how many times I fell straight down! I also stood up a few times and it was so fun. I think the best part was that (mostly) everyone was in a good mood and not taking themselves too seriously. After our beach day was over, we ended up getting the truck stuck like 3 times. We all were laughing the entire time. It wasn’t a big deal! We were all having fun.

After all that, I was really glad to have gone…even if I was not the paddleboarding goddess on my first attempt. I signed up for my 2nd trip, which was yesterday. I’m not an expert yet, but I’m one step closer than the person who never got out of bed. (#clichebuttrue). I’m really excited and hope to be learning to paddleboard in more locations!

How to Get a 5 Star Passenger Rating on Uber

Since I don’t have a car in Houston, I have taken Uber a lot. And, not to brag or anything, but I have like a 4.9 passenger rating. YAAS!

Before you call the Uber:

  • Call the Uber only when you’re actually ready to go. I’ve waited anywhere from 10 seconds to 30 minutes for a car in Houston and Chicago. Sometimes, the car is right outside. Sometimes, the car decides to go for a wild adventure for 20 minutes
  • If you have a super long trip or a trip to the airport, I would suggest calling the driver first to make sure they are okay with your ride.

Before you get in:

  • Always check the license plate and ask who the driver is. Even if it seems awkward, I have never had a driver get upset that I double checked. If there’s no license plate, I don’t go in.
  • At a minimum, say hi and ask the driver how they are doing. Like anyone else, they don’t want to be seen as a human automaton!

During the ride: 

  • Don’t throw out all regard to safety! I never mention that I am headed home (“Headed to a friend’s home) or that I am going to an empty apartment. I also try to avoid holding bulky things if I’m alone.
  • Try to avoid bringing dirt and debris into the car. You can get fined ~$200!

After the ride: 

  • If your driver doesn’t get a 5-star rating, he or she is at risk of losing their ability to pick up passengers. So, think twice before rating someone average as 2-3 stars. For myself, I usually start with 5 stars. If there is a minor problem, I go to 4 stars. If there’s a major issue, I rate them 1-2 stars.
  • If you feel like the driver was exceptionally slow or circuitous, you can request a refund from Uber after your ride. I’ve done this more than once and gotten my money back.
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