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CAT 2019: How to manage work and prepare for the CAT

With the mountain called the CAT now in sight, most working professionals will be wondering how to mount another challenge to get into the old IIMs.

The biggest obstacle in front working professionals will be juggling a job and prepping for CAT at the same time. Some of you in this situation will have decided to quit your job, hopefully only after having read my post on the same and having understood the implications of quitting.

Those of you who have not contemplated the same might be wondering as to what can be a fool-proof plan to manage both. Most of you will be happy if I gave you a daily to-do list. But managing work and prep require more than having a to-do list. Unless you manage your life, work and energy in totality, even the best to-do list will stay just that — a to-do list. So, this post will take up the whole gamut of things that you will have to execute to ensure that you crack the this year’s CAT.

The most precious commodity is your energy

Most people focus on the fact that they get just a small window of prep time after work and commute. The bigger problem I feel is the limited amount of energy that you have left after a full day’s work.

Since our brains constantly crave rewards for each and everything that we do, the first thing that our brains and bodies want to do after a hard days work — RELAX.

What does this word RELAX usually translate into?

  • BAD posture: lying down or slouching in a way that seems to say I don’t want to give a ****
  • BAD food: something that will make us feel good, heavy and sleepy
  • BAD food for the mind: since the body has been satiated, the mind wants its fix of unending videos and memes and whatnot; with the stomach you know when its full, with videos, can you even say when your mind is full?

After two to three hours of RELAXing, I am sure Time, Speed & Distance will not really seem even distantly inviting. We all know what follows next — a strong decision to wake up early and practice TSD before going to work and a set the alarm with a clenched jaw 🙂 I am sure there is no need to elaborate what happens in the morning.

Revving yourself up in the morning

The first thing to do then do is to manage your energy better right throughout the day so that you don’t really crave the RELAX in the evening. If you can prevent the craving then you don’t need to resist the temptation.

I am not sure if Yoga and Pranayama are the cure-alls they are proclaimed to be but they definitely boost your energy and alertness levels drastically. This is both from personal experience and more so from the experience of my mother, who took it up at my suggestion and now has insane amounts of energy and doesn’t miss a Yoga class for anything (even if her children are visiting).

Given the limited amount of time at your disposal, you can’t possible enroll for a class but you surely can do some basic breathing exercises such as kapabhati and nadishodana pranayama just to rev up the lungs.

You should spend 15 to 20 minutes every day in the morning, after freshening up doing these breathing exercises.

At any time during the day, if you feel sleepy and sluggish you can always rely on straightening your back and taking deep breaths is the surefire way to getting back to alertness.

Resetting your body and mind in the evening

As much as the morning revving up is required, what is even more important is the evening reset. Our first instinct when we get back to our place is to plonk ourselves and start yapping with whoever is at home.

While one can do this it is best if one focusses first on resetting the mind and body to become fresh again.

Take a bath whether you feel like it or not and do another round 10-15 minutes round of breathing exercises.

Just do this every day and you will notice a subtle change in the way you feel physically over a period of time apart from higher energy levels:

  • reduced craving for food, caffeine, alcohol or cigarettes
  • reduced anxiety levels leading to a calmer disposition
  • reduced brain fog and higher alertness

Another really good cure for low alertness and brain fog are Brahmi capsules; whenever I have been short of sleep or feel groggy even after a coffee, a Brahmi capsule does the trick.

Save energy by talking less during the day

One of the big ways we expend a lot of energy without knowing is by talking a lot. If you treat the energy you have within you to be of a finite amount then, you will start conserving the same at various points of time during the day. You have to manage your salary to last the whole month, you have to manage your energy to last the whole day. So talk less and you will save and build up energy reserves leading up to the CAT.

Choose the right slots

It does not matter whether you are a morning person or an evening person, you have to choose the time slot to prep that is least likely to be disrupted due to work.

Whether it is before or after work, choose time-slot that will not be disrupted.

  • If you have flexible timings then choose a slightly skewed time slot, say an 8-4 or, a 11-7, instead of standard 9 to 5 or 10 to 6. This will give a longer undisrupted time-slot
  • If you have to work within fixed timings then ensure that you hit those timings, finish your work and get out.

I know that some of you might be working in projects in which there is absolutely no respite at all. You will be working weekends as well. If I say I have an answer for such case, I will be lying.

Plan for a break around the September-October period

No matter how diligently you prepare on a daily basis. It is necessary that for a brief period the only current that is passing through your nervous system is that of CAT. You need to get magnetized in a particular direction.

So you have to ensure that you have enough leaves and inform your boss in advance to be able to take this break.

What can prevent you from taking this break?

  • Losing leaves for family weddings that you have to attend. If it is not your direct sibling, it is something that can be and has to be avoided.
  • Losing leaves to trips planned by close friends. If a trip with friends is more important than getting into IIM-A then reconsidering your priorities are in order.

Do not take the break in November as it will be too close to the test for you to see the results of your prep.

The ideal break should be about 3 weeks long, even 2 weeks can suffice (I won’t be doing a post on the best stories to make your boss grant you leave).

You have limited time, so use it judiciously

Today, anyone who tries to learn or do anything first googles it. The avalanche of information available from blogs, forums such as Quora and Pagal Guy, to Facebook groups is insane.

I myself did this a while ago when I started off on a fitness trip. Very soon I was so deep down the rabbit hole that more than actually doing anything I was just trying to make sense of this maze of information hitting me from so many quarters. What I forgot during this search was setting myself realistic, achievable and enjoyable goals for me.

Even for CAT prep, you can end up spending a lot of time on forums accumulating information that might or might not directly help you prepare for the CAT. We live in an age where we can easily accumulate tons and tons of content and never really use or enjoy the same — music for instance.

So be very aware of the point after which there are diminishing marginal returns on time invested in information gathering.

Regulate your phone usage time

A smartphone has to be the most addictive time-sink known to man. I had a seen a graphic quite a few years ago that Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter formed the Bermuda triangle of productivity.

I think they don’t even compare to what Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube can do. It starts with just one episode and then it’s almost dawn.

Do not try to limit your consumption, just remove the temptation, remove the apps from your phone.

But your brain will crave for a fix, decide on that one cheat day a month and watch whatever you want for a specified time.

Getting into monk mode

All great sportsmen speak about getting into the zone — Michael Jordan and Ayrton Senna (F1 fans or not everyone should watch the documentary Senna by Asif Kapadia) to name a few. What does it mean, this being in the zone business?

It essentially means that there is only action, the actor (not to be confused with films) is not aware that he or she is acting, he or she loses “I” consciousness.

This happens occasionally, but exceptional performers always get close to this zone, where the mind is no longer dragging them down with doubt, worry and thought, they are aware that they are acting but there is no drag.

It is not possible to reach these states all of a sudden. It starts with the practice of breathing exercises and mediation (Senna was fully into it) and also reading texts that give you the perspective that keeps you grounded.

Of all the books that I have read, the format and style of I Am That and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Suzuki Shunryu are the ones best suited to daily reading.

Each book can be read over and over and over again. Both of them will more than test your CR skills. (I am not to be held responsible if any of you start reading the books and decide that CAT and MBA are just illusions!)

Every year I meet a lot of students with great potential and lots of plans to crack the test, sometimes it is things beyond their control that derail their dreams but most of the time it is the huge chasm between the dream and the everyday choices they make, that come in the way of their plans being realized. Every choice you make, every single day has an implication.

As I have written previously as well, most of us do not align our short-term actions to our long-term goals. We wake up only when we can feel the deadline of our long-term goal is breathing down our neck.

The idea of this post was to make you aware of the many things that go into converting a dream into a reality, especially if you are away from home and working.



  1. Hi Sir,
    This is by far the most important blog a CAT aspirant(or anyone who is failing to manage time properly) should be reading right now.
    Eagerly waiting for more of these!
    Thank you!

    P.s.- What’s your prediction for the world cup?😅


    • Hi Akshat,

      Glad you found the post useful. Usually, the posts are based on the queries aspirants send me.

      As far as the World Cup goes, I think India or Australia. Something tells me the Aussies know how to bring it all together and they will be hungry.

      I am doubtful about India because we have only 4 set batsmen – Rohit, Dhawan, Kohli and Dhoni – two of whom are match winners and two of whom are reliable. I don’t know how we are going to manage if the top 3 fall since there is no one apart from

      Dark horse, West Indies.

      One of these three will push England over.

      Have fun watching and prepping!


      • Aarushi Sisodia says

        Sir, thank you for the post. It is undoubtedly one of the best motivational post I have read so far. The way you have conveyed the comman thoughts which are there in everybody’s mind somewhere but could not get help from them, is really impressive.

        Thank you for constant guiding and motivation.


      • Hi Aarushi,

        Glad you found the post useful. The idea is not to be intentionally motivational, the idea is to outline a broad plan and put things into perspective.

        All the best with the prep!


  2. Manash Jyoti Deka says

    Hi Sir,

    I feel that the best thing I have done today is to read this post. You have mentioned that having a to-do list isn’t sufficient enough and I can realise it from last two-three months of experience. What I have started to feel lately is that I have wasted a whole lot of time. But, the one para from this post touched me the most and that is “Every year I meet a lot……….every single day has an implication.”

    I also get worried, I feel frustrated when I am not being able to find time to study. But, I may have failed to realise that everything is a consequence of daily choices that I make.

    Thanks for the post. I needed it to steer myself to the track.


  3. Abhishek Arora says

    sir i am preparing for cat for the third time. My percentiles in VA have been a huge concern. Anything specific if you can suggest which i follow diligently so that percentile in VA increases?
    My QA and DILR percentiles have been good in the previous two years.


    • Hi Abhishek,

      Please go through the posts on this page.

      If execute the strategies in these posts by adopting them in your practice routines and then in the tests, you should see an increase in your scores.

      If you pick bits and pieces from them but fundamentally continue with your own method your scores will continue to the stay in the same range.

      All the best!


  4. nina blue says

    Sir, I am nina and I have just started my preparation for CAT 2019. I know I started it quite late. But I want to crack CAT 2019 this year. I had appeared for CAT 2018 and scored pretty low around 70 percentile without preparation. But this year I am aiming for 95 percentile to 100 percentile. I know it is too far fetched but still it will be very helpful if you could guide through this. Could you please tell me how I should prepare for CAT? I have IMS study materials and Arun Sharma books and I have also purchased mock test series. But I don’t know how to go along with my preparations. Please help.


  5. Hi sir, Loved the article. For the 3 week break period mentioned, what should be the study plan in this break ? also will a break in October make sense since you mentioned that taking leaves in November won’t help since there will be no time in observing the results of the break.

    Thank you 🙂


    • Hi Abhinab,

      I think a break from the last week of September to October should work the best.

      As far as study plan during those three months, you should bring your LR skills into play — we are in June now and I do not know at what percentiles you are right now and at what percentiles you will be in September, so you do understand that it will be impossible for me to give you a study plan for then at this juncture.

      There is nothing like a standard thing that everyone needs to do in the last two months since everyone is not at the same percentile in the last two months.

      All the best!


  6. Hi sir, Loved the article. Wanted to ask you about 3 week long break mentioned. What should be the preparation plan for this period ? and also will a break in October make sense? since you advised not to take a break in November.

    Thank you 🙂


  7. Arman says

    Hi Sir,


    Any personal recommendation for the best IMS coaching centre in Chennai? My quant skills are not great and so I was thinking of joining the weekday classes for some guidance and doubt solving sessions.

    Thank you


  8. ARGHYA Roy says

    please tell me how to utilise the 2 week long break in october, when CAT is in november.lso taking such a long beak will esure that i wont get much leaves before CAT (end November).ur views?


    • Hi Arghya,

      As far as study plan during those three months, you should bring your LR skills into play — we are in June now and I do not know at what percentiles you are right now and at what percentiles you will be in September, so you do understand that it will be impossible for me to give you a study plan for then at this juncture.

      There is nothing like a standard thing that everyone needs to do in the last two months since everyone is not at the same percentile in the last two months.

      Unlike college exams, for which taking a break immediately before the exam is critical, since the exams depend on memory, for CAT there is little that you can do in the last two weeks. The three-week break is to ensure that you are fully on top of all concepts and take enough tests to master question selection and develop stamina.

      After that, the SimCATs are like the first 6 matches of the tennis Slam and the actual CAT the final.

      Players usually do very little practice during the tournament.

      If you need a break before the CAT, it should be just a few days off to feel physically fresh for the test.

      All the best!


  9. Sayan Biswas says

    Hi Tony,

    I am currently working in Cognizant and have to work from 11 to 8 and to reach office which is nearly 25 kms away from my home have to start nearly at 930 a.m. What should I follow to manage time judiciously, also there are no PG or hostels near my office and hence I have to travel from home only. I stay at Kolkata. Please give some suggestions.



    • Hi Sayan,

      Honestly, your situation seems quite tough. But if for 6 months you can put your feelings aside, manage your energies well, and do the following you should see a good score —

      1. Use the ride to and fro on the bus to either prep or get some rest. For example, it makes a lot of sense to do prep on the way to work and sleep on the way back.

      During transit, it is best to use the time to learn concepts, you can warm by solving a Sudoku and then open myIMS on your mobile and watch concept and application videos (this feature will be available with the launch of the new myIMS by the end of this month, the same will be available via an app in a couple of months). Till then you can also learn using the site Go to the bottom of the page and you can view posts by TAGs. Your entire QA concept learning should happen this way.

      2. You need to make about 90 minutes at night and 90 minutes in the morning to prep (sleep, of course, cannot be more than 6 hours since you will get 90 minutes on the way)

      3. How to use the 90 minutes depends on where you stand with the 9 areas — RC, VA, DI, LR, Numbers, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Modern Math. If your VA and RC are good(you have no issues finishing the section in 60 minutes and scoring a 90 percentile) then there is no point spending a lot of time on them, focus on the others. Ideally, every alternate day you should do 3 sets of DI and 3 sets of LR and on the other days do QA and VA and RC as needed.

      4. On weekends, do tests.

      Hope this clarifies,

      All the best!


  10. Pingback: CAT 2019: A plan for the last leg | The CAT Writer

  11. Pingback: A plan for the last leg | The CAT Writer

  12. Arghae Singh says

    Hi sir
    What a phenomenal blog post you’ve written. I read this post for the first time in 2019 when I started my CAT prep. I had gotten 98.6 %ile in CAT 2018 and believed I had the capability to score more as I didn’t give my 100% in CAT 2018 attempt. The main thing I was struggling in my 2019 attempt was on how to manage my job and CAT, and this post came at exactly the right time 🙂 . I’ve read this post 7-8 times over the course of my CAT prep and some of your other posts as well. I was able to score 99.85%ile in CAT 2019 and now I’ve completed my first year of MBA at IIM Lucknow. I was feeling unfocused and overwhelmed during my summer internship (mainly because of WFH) and thought of coming back to your blog. Sir your blog worked like a charm during my CAT prep days and I recommend all of my juniors who come to me for advice on CAT, to read your blog. Also, I never got a chance to Thank You. I’ve been thinking of writing you a mail but couldn’t find your mail address, so thanking you here only 😛 .


    • Hi Arghae,

      Your comment was a pleasant surprise!

      Your uncommon name sounds familiar, though; I am assuming this is not the first time you have commented on this blog!

      Really glad to know that you return to the post even now and find something of use.

      I believe that given the crazy salaries and the crazy work hours, the modern working professional needs to function as an elite sportsman. Nothing will come naturally — a healthy body, a calm mind and good relationships — after a point since work tends to subsume everything else, and one has to make a conscious effort just to talk to take care of oneself. If you can make yoga & exercise and pranayama & meditation a part of your daily routine you should be able to be in a position to stay on top of things.

      Also, always good to hear from a super-super-junior (I am not sure if you have been to campus yet, you will my name on the notice board with names of former Student Council members!)

      Thanks again for writing in.

      Keep practising!


      • Arghae Singh says

        Yes Sir, I’ve seen your name in the notice board in the mess. I think you were the Acads Secy of your time. If you could suggest me some good books on Yoga or Meditation that would be great. I used to meditate during CAT prep days and it certainly helped me during that time but I left the practice after that.


      • Glad to know you got to go to campus. Hope you get to get back soon and spend the last 6 months there; nothing like it.

        There are many books around Yoga and Meditation, the one that I have used to learn things on my own is Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. there are others that go into quite a bit of detail about the breathing exercises (if you are interested — Path of Fire and Light series by Swami Rama)

        What I would really suggest though is to take up regular classes online and then offline at least for some time (6 months to a year) so that later you can do things on your own.

        A fairly simple 20-minute morning routine of breathing exercises followed by mediation and a chapter from one of the books mentioned in the post (I Am That or Zen Mind, Beginners’ Mind; I read the first for close to three years and then picked up the latter) will always hold you in good stead.

        It need not be set aside for special endeavours such as the CAT, it should become a part of your daily life.

        To suggest a few metaphors, think of it as if you were

        1. tuning your breath & mind slowly over a period of time the way a musician would tune a musical instrument to make it pitch-
        2. resetting your compass to the north every single day the way an adventurer would while setting off

        Hope this helps,

        All the best!


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