A little over a year ago I wrote an article about balancing work and school based on how other software engineers were managing doing their masters degree and being full-time engineers. Fast forward 1 year later and it’s my turn to figure out this balancing act. Three words, I have not. Not to a perfect balance anyway. Sometimes I am on a seamless balance, sometimes work becomes heavier than school and sometimes school becomes heavier than work and honestly, I am to blame. It is so easy to achieve the perfect balance. I just have upside-down priorities or make the mistake of doing things according to how I am feeling at the moment. That has cost me my peace of mind, a good night’s sleep on so many nights, and one or two migraines because of trying to meet deadlines I could have easily met if only I listened to my gut. My last assignment taught me a lesson I will take through my entire masters’ journey, and one I will gladly share. 

 

Yup, Lesson Learnt

I proudly decided to open my assignment requirements a week to the due date, because well, I just wasn’t “feeling it” for the past 3 weeks it had been available. I thought that I’d be able to do it in two or three days. Yup, stupid idea. Why? Because said assignment was to build a simulation in Java, a programming language I had not touched or looked at in 4 years! So in those 6 days, I had to remind myself how to work with java, and build an entire system that had oh so many requirements. Worst week of 2020, and I hope it’s the only one. Not only that, but I also had crazy deadlines at work that would see me stay in the office until 6 or 7 pm. As expected, I did a terrible rushed job that I am extremely ashamed of. Oh, how glad I am that at this point in my education I don’t need to show my parents my school results.

 

My Secret

The best way to handle school and work is to have a written down plan. The best purchase I have made this year is a planner, and it is my current favourite item at the moment because I realize its benefit more and more each day. In a week, there is a set of lecture videos I am required to cover, reading discussions I should attend, quizzes, assignments and textbooks or papers to read. The trick is knowing how to do that and still handle a 9 to 6 job perfectly. Planner to the rescue! Did I also mention how cute it is!! 

Every evening after work, I spend 2-3 hours trying to accomplish my set goal for school, whether or not I feel like it. I plan these goals on the first day of that week, based on the class’ timetable. This has allowed me to stay on track at school, get slightly ahead as well to practice more Java and still get 7-8 hours sleep and kill it at work! I am sure this may change depending on the level of difficulty of the unit in later semesters, but currently, it’s working like a charm. I’m not gonna lie though, 9 out of 10 times I feel like getting home and sitting down with a series, a movie or a good book instead of computer science course work. 

With work, I stick to a very structured routine. Plan my week’s tasks on Monday, get to work at 8 am and leave at 5 pm or 6 pm latest. The Pomodoro Technique has been extremely effective for me with deep concentration, avoiding distractions and completing my tasks on time, more often than not. 

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