Managing between university and work - Part II

I’m done with my bachelors in computer engineering. Guess this is as good a time as any to follow up on this post I wrote when I was a freshie. I wanted to write sooner.. like way sooner but I’d always stop because I thought there was never any substantial realization that put me on a different approach than what I described in part 1. My analysis back then was that it’s not possible for me to balance all 4 portions of my life:

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And I kinda agree. You can’t really satisfy the square. But then I did get through 4 years of doing just that.. juggling among these 4 things and somehow at the end of it all, found the square all balanced. My sleep schedule was so bad at one point that I’d wake 12-14 hours later on the weekends after a full week of pulling 3-hour shut-eyes. I didn’t prepare for university quizzes apart from what I did at uni and a little bit in my break at work. I did always take a week off during semester finals so at least that helped.

Speaking of help, the nature of work that I did changed. I used to be in sales and it was so exhausting. I used to dread going to work but I finally learned some PHP and got into webdev. My colleagues at work would cover for me few times during my exams or if I was running late or feeling under the weather etc. Not to mention, my cousin helped me so much to the point where I sorta feel indebt to him.

And I thought if I only focused on my work and studies, I’d miss out on my social life and like other things in this post, that also has some truth in it. But, the people I now call my friends are one of the most genuine people I know. They’re people I feel comfortable being myself. I guess, it also helped that I was never reserved in asking for help. I’d always reach out whenever I needed to vent or to calm or something.

And finally, my sleep. The one thing I decided in my first post in this series to not compromise on. And God knows how much I’ve compromised on it.

So, what seemed impossible a few years ago is now a reality. Mind you, I didn’t particularly excel at any of the corners but I didn’t have to. I always knew that and that mindset of just getting through is what really helped me. If you had ever seen me in uni, you’d never be able to guess that I was sleep deprived and had a ton of stress but that’s an outlook that I had to adopt to fit in with everyone else. Looking back, I don’t think I regret or wanna change anything that happened. So, if you’re like me and have to work full time with pursuing a bachelor’s degree, my advice to you would be:

Set a schedule for the week ahead

People tend to have a clear head when they’re not in the thick of it. So, when you’re having to juggle between study and work, you wanna have clear tasks and targets otherwise you’re just trudging through and the next thing you know you’ve done all the smaller tasks but there’s still bigger stuff pending. So, instead of deferring the decision of choosing your tasks when you’re already tired, you choose it beforehand and then follow it religiously. Schedules are amazing things. The satisfaction of checking off the items is addicting. My favourite app for doing this is Microsoft To Do. I love how it’s accessbile from almost everywhere.

Build good habits

Habits are automatic prompts and actions that you don’t need to expend conscious mental energy to perform. Let your subconscious deal with that which isn’t as distracted by your current moods and circumstances. Building habits is a pretty difficult job but it helps in the long run, freeing up your mind and letting you focus. Fun Habit is an awesome app that sets up imaginary gold coins for each wish and you earn them by checking off habits.

Avoid sugar

Seriously, I realized this quite late but after coming home from uni, I’d eat a bunch of chocolates which would result in me feeling extremely tired a few hours later. Likely due to a sugar crash. Generally though, eating less should help you remain more active and less sleepy overall.

Try not to say no to plans

When you’re already under so much burden of uni and work then you naturally tend not to socialize very much. Trust me, it’s hard to be fun when you can’t stop snoozing. So on the weekends when you decide that it’s the time to recharge and curl with your phone, watch a movie or complete a show, you’d rather want to spend that time going outing with your friends. You’re already missing out on the free time because you gotta get to work so when you do get some breathing room, try to get included and avoid saying no.

Focus on a single thing at a time

At first, I jam-packed my schedule to include studying class work each day while my break at work in the hopes that if I keep everything fresh in my mind, I won’t have to study as hard when the time comes. And it worked for the first couple of days but then died real fast. So, when you have your regular classes and exams are still a bit far away, focus on your office work and when exams get closer then switch gears to study more. An awesome book that helped me with this was: The ONE Thing Work life balance the perfect work life balance isn’t symmetric

It’s okay to start over

While first learning how to program, I couldn’t stick to a single thing. I’d start a course on data science, dabble with some C# while learning UWP, take a look at Flutter, try a new book on .NET Core or subscribe to learning graphics design. And it was always the same story, after a little while I’d let each one go and wouldn’t be able to fully commit to any of those which would eventually lead me to abandon them and jump to a different subject. I thought I was stuck in Tutorial Hell but really whenever it came time to apply these in my uni projects or at work, I’d always have this intuition and all those courses I left behind gave me the boost until I was actually programming for real. So, keep trying and don’t get discouraged when you wanna start over because you’re never really starting from scratch the second time around, you’re starting from experience.

Of course, what worked for me may not work for you. Everyone’s different and it’s your job to find out what you’re comfortable following. With that said though, I remember searching on forums, reading articles, posting on Reddit etc. about a solution for dividing my time perfectly between work and university and a gazilion other things and it helped so I hope you find this and it would mean the world to me if I can help a single person in what I went through. You’re not alone. You can do this!