Going back to school baby!
January 29, 2009 6:12 PM   Subscribe

How can I cope with a busy schedule?

So, yay for me, I got accepted into a part-time design course at my local technical college. This course is something I have been dreaming about for the past couple of years and in an area that I love and enjoy learning about. Catch is - I work full-time. I'm starting to get really stressed that I won't be able to cope with the time suck, especially as this will be for the next 18 months (starting in about 2 weeks). My typical week will look like:

Mon: 8.30 - 5pm (Work) 6-9pm (Course)
Tues: 8.30 - 5pm (Work) 6-9pm (Course)
Wed: 8.30 - 5pm (Work)
Thu: 8.30 - 5pm (Work) 6-9pm (Course)
Fri: 8.30 - 5pm (Work) 5.05 - G&T induced oblivion (Ok, I joke! This would be an occasional Friday)

I'm not sure if I am panicking unnecessarily but I am very concerned that I am going to get burnt out, start to resent having assignments and extra work to do and become really de-motivated. I do not want to screw up this opportunity to learn and excel... My question: how have you coped with a busy, relentless schedule and what tips and tricks can you share so that I can make sure I use this opportunity to its fullest?

*I've already studied at university and got through my 3 years ok but was only working casually so had lots of spare time (far too much actually - oh Passions how I miss thee!) **I know it might not seem that busy to some of you amazing me-fites but I haven't done anything but work and hang out for the last 3 years...
posted by latch24 to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Getting enough sleep and eating well and at appropriate times--keeps you healthier and saner for sure. Does the course require homework? Figure out a way to schedule homework time and break time, so that you're sure to get enough time to yourself. The amount of work will always expand to fill the available time if you let it.
posted by liketitanic at 6:27 PM on January 29, 2009

1. Try not to sit and contemplate how you will manage thru' the next 18 months. For one, its 18 months, not 18 years. And two, if you are going to be that busy, the year would be over before you know it. Just take it one day at a time.
2. Minimize drama in rest of your life- roommates, relationship drama etc etc.
3. You'll probably have to minimize hanging out too. But do relax as and when needed.

Its sort of like the marshmallow test. Good luck.
posted by xm at 6:33 PM on January 29, 2009

make lists
posted by lockestockbarrel at 6:47 PM on January 29, 2009

this can be tough -- i took a full undergraduate credit in the summer while i was working full time, and my schedule then was similar to yours.

it can help to schedule your time in chunks (i.e. your Wednesday evenings and weekends. use a grid and stick to it. one of the most helpful things is to schedule downtime. one or two hours a week where you literally don't plan anything -- time for you, not for laundry or tidying the living room or returning phone calls.

right now, i'm balancing teacher's college (practice teaching & classes), 3 part-time jobs, volunteering, dogwalking for a neighbour, a social life, a boyfriend 40 minutes away, and planning a transatlantic move. nothing helps like an hour or two where i can just veg.
posted by gursky at 6:48 PM on January 29, 2009

1. Food. Bring snacks around with you so you don't get grumpy from being hungry.
2. Lists or calendars, whichever works for you. More than just being busy you'll need to keep track of everything going on in your life so you can get it out of your brain.
3. Definitely minimize drama, as xm said.

FlyLady or GTD are both good systems that can help you keep your house clean/life in order. Both focus on routines--have a set bedtime, have a set waking time, have a set routine before you go to bed that gets you ready for the next day (lay out your clothes, pack your lunch, get your stuff together), make things work as a system. Do a little bit with any spare time you have and nothing will get overwhelming.

My experience comes from college, where I took a full load plus three courses and was editor in chief of the university's weekly paper and had a semi-long distance boyfriend. Or from now, when I have a full time job, take two graduate courses per semester, have regular weekly dance classes and rehearsals to perform as part of a dance company, and balance freelance work on top of three book clubs and a relatively new boyfriend. It's all about routines.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:31 PM on January 29, 2009

Forgot one point.

4. Live in a study-friendly, distraction-free environment- whatever that is for you.
posted by xm at 7:50 PM on January 29, 2009

I'm currently dealing with a schedule that's slightly worse than that. The most important thing is to take care of yourself -- allow yourself downtime, try to eat healthy (when you're that busy, it's really tempting to fast food it all the time), and get lots of sleep.
posted by whatideserve at 8:48 PM on January 29, 2009

This past summer I worked two jobs, and my schedule was basically 7-5 Job 1 every weekday (hour-long commute, yay), and then 5-9:30 Job 2 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then 9 hours on Saturday and 7 hours on Sunday for Job 2. This went on for three months, and it drove me nuts because it was literally 7 days a week, non-stop. Believe it or not, you adapt to the 12-13 hour day very, very quickly, as long as you make sure to eat at regular intervals.

Definitely have very very regular sleeping times. That means if you need to sleep at midnight to get up in the morning to go to work, do not lounge around on MeFi until 1 or 2 am just reading threads. The more regular your sleeping times during the week are, the more productive you will be on the weekends.

And this brings me to my second point - weekends. I'm currently in University, and the weekends are your best friends as far as doing work is concerned. It's all you're going to be able to do just to keep up with work during the week, the weekends should be where the bulk of the material gets done. During the week, focus on routine, and light review, and reserve, say, Saturday, for projects and the like. And the only way you're going to be able to do that is to not have 14-hour mini-comas (speaking as someone who regularly sleeps less than 25 hours per week), by sleeping at a normal schedule even on Friday night.

The more productive your work time is, the more free time you'll have. Remember to give yourself a bit of a break every day - even if it's just half an hour to sit quietly and listen to some music. You'll have deserved it. Good luck!
posted by Phire at 9:12 PM on January 29, 2009

Make sure you wind down at the end of the night. Read a bit of a good book, take a bath, watch an episode of your favorite TV show - do whatever it takes to go to bed relaxed. It makes your sleep more efficient.
posted by ignignokt at 2:38 AM on January 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a schedule similar to that one (either taking 2 or 3 evening classes while working full time at a job that often required overtime) for a few years. It's totally manageable and I'm not a workaholic by any means. You'll do homework on the weekends. Key tips:
--Bring food. Have a lot of energy bars and fruit on hand. You don't want to be too tired to learn.
--Get enough sleep. There will be no socializing on the nights you have school. You should probably reserve socializing for weekends only, unless you have a really nice friend who just wants to make you dinner or something.

Good luck! Congratulations on pursuing your dreams.
posted by tk at 6:10 AM on January 30, 2009

Thanks everyone, I really appreciated hearing your stories and how you worked it all out! It makes me realise (as you said xm) I shouldn't focus on the length more the journey. Also, schedule! schedule! schedule! (and some tasty snacks). Cheers guys.
posted by latch24 at 10:45 PM on January 30, 2009

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