I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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Okay, the Discrete Math class I’m taking is kicking my ass. I did pretty well during the first half of the course, but now the amount of work is intensifying. I’m learning lots, but is it really possible to work full time, take classes, blog, and still have a fabulous designer life? I’m beginning to wonder how successful one can be doing all four.

Are any of you working and schooling at the same time? How do you manage your time and the increased anxiety? Please share your tips. I need your help!

35 Comments

  • CP

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    11:28 am

    About 2 years ago I wrapped up my Master’s work all while I worked a salaried full-time job and prepared for my wedding. To-do lists and a lot of lost sleep kept me in the game.

  • Joe

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    11:28 am

    Hi! I work full time and I am taking 4 University classes!!! The only advice I can give you is, Wake up earlier. Sleep later and don’t watch TV. Prioritize your tasks and try to get ahead in your studies. I know! I know! Easier said then done!

  • Ed Arnold

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    11:31 am

    I work 2 jobs, take a full load at the university and have a 7 year old. I agree that it is a pain in the ass. I don’t have any particular tricks to suggest, but I do have some habits that keep me sane.

    1) I structure my schedule. Sunday and Mondays are my days off from one of my jobs. Depending on school I usually do large school projects on these days

    2) schedule breaks- regardless of what I have due I have a Friday night family movie night with the wife and kid. It helps

    3) small bursts- I work in 15-30 minutes bursts and then have a few minutes to make a cup of coffee or read RSS feeds. It keep me from burning out on one particular project

    Good luck

  • Jenn Vargas

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    11:45 am

    I have 2 jobs, clubs, research and am a full time student. It gets pretty daunting at times and I find myself just wishing I could go to sleep. My best piece of advice is to streamline. I tried to get rid some of the commitments I had that were no longer of value to me or that I wasn’t putting enough into to provide value to others. It really came down to I had more commitment hours than I did hours in the week.

    Another thing is to find something that you can do consistently at the same time every day. For me, I login to abc.com and watch a quick show or something. Just something that will let my brain idle for a little while.

    Call a Saturday. It’s my term for when I decide I need to take a break to regroup and just sleep or something. I convince myself that it’s Saturday. Turn off my email notifications and crash on the couch. It really helps to maintain sanity sometimes :)

  • Jonathan

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    11:46 am

    I got a Master’s degree going to school full time while I kept my job at halftime and was also a research assistant for a professor 10-20 hours a week. I have to agree with the advice Ed gave about making a schedule and sticking to it, and as he said, that includes scheduling in time for a personal life so you’re not working 24×7. Knowing you are taking Friday evening off (for example) helps keep you motivated and working during the times when you know you have to be working.

    I have one other piece of advice (and this was hard for me to swallow, but good for me when I did). In high school and college, I worked really hard and got all A’s and joined all kinds of extracurricular activities and student organization, etc., etc., etc. But in grad school with so many other things going on in life, I realized I needed to negotiate what was really important to me and learn to say “no” to some commitments, including sometimes making the decision that a particular assignment or lecture was less important than some other work that I was going to learn more from. Remember, you’re taking the course for yourself, and not necessarily for some degree or GPA or whatever somebody else says you need, so you need to maximize what you can get out of it for the effort you are able to put in.

  • Duncan

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    11:53 am

    There was a point last year where I was in full-time education plus running three jobs @ once: [1] weekend bookshop monkey, [2] minibus tester, [3] student representative for university open days. This is what i learnt:

    take a day off where the only criteria is that you are outside for over 5 hours whatever the weather. resets the harmony.

    allow 1 lie in per week. rest the brain and body.

    structure the week down to the last 30 minutes. make monday and tuesday night coursework nights as they are productive.

    have chinese food on a friday. give your self a treat.

    don’t have a TV. honestly having no TV makes me feel so creative.

    you can’t do everything, so prioritise what you consider the most important things are and work round them.

    when reaching for the chocolate for a sugar kick, don’t. have a banana instead.

  • Chanpory Rith

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    12:19 pm

    Wow, I’m glad to see other people are in the same boat are successful at managing time with so many commitments. Part of the problem, is that I haven’t taken a class in so long, it’s a bit of a shock to my system. One thing I realized is that I have to avoid worrying so much about the mountain of material to read, digest, and learn. Instead, attack the material one step a time. Even if I fail the class, something’s to be learned from it.

  • Philip Karpiak

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    1:21 pm

    Full-time salaried employee taking two courses per semester at University, currently. Creating lists and not having an excuse to watch TV (thanks writers strike) has greatly helped. Overall, I just tried simplifying and cutting back some of the fluff I occupy myself with during my free time.

    I used to have three or four side projects I would work on during my free time, but this was starting to get in the way of being able to focus on my studies. I had to make some sacrifices I wish I didn’t have to, but they won’t be life-long cuts to my hobbies, so I can always return to them when I get my degree.

  • Stuart

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    2:11 pm

    I’m a full-time music teacher, 20 hr. youth pastor, 20 hr. camp worker, a new Father, and graphic designer.

    Find creative ways to double up. As a hobby I like to play basketball and shoot guns. I always have a student with me to go shooting. We can talk about school, camp, music, family, and church. The graphic design elements I use to make money, I change up a bit and use them for the church or camp. While I take walks with my wife we talk about camp stuff. I recently decided to start blogging about my life rather than waste my time trying to think up “the greatest post of all time!”

  • Kim

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    3:59 pm

    Congrats – working and studying is not easy. I’m studying for my masters part time while working fulltime as a lecturer at a different institution, and agree with a lot of the advice above. My top tips are:

    Figure out what is important to you, and schedule time to do it. It might be time with your family, writing, painting or being outdoors – whatever it is, don’t put it aside – life’s too short not to live it.

    Don’t do too much work on assignments: many of my working students aren’t used to doing an “ok” job any more, because it’s not acceptable in the workforce. Check with the lecturer if instructions are unclear, plan out what you have to do, make sure you don’t go overboard – which is a waste of your time – but also figure out how much you need to do to get the grades you want. Your lecturer should be willing to advise you on this.

    Go to classes: having made this mistake myself in the past, I strongly recommend going to every single class, so you don’t get lost or miss assignment tips.

    And last – don’t let everything else slide. Put systems in place to do the housework, repairs and other little jobs that crop up. That way you don’t have 200 little jobs nagging away at you all the time.

    Good luck :)

  • megan

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    4:03 pm

    Delegate well at work, engage fully in school, and break up everything into 1 or 2 hour chunks. I do one hour of reading, then one hour of something else, then another hour of reading…

  • Mike

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    4:10 pm

    I’m in school full time. I work part time as an apple campus rep, I am music director of the student run radio station, I am starting a web startup and I freelance (I have a girlfriend as well… thank God she’s a designer too).

    I’ve found the best way to cope is to combine different projects.

    I’ll do a freelance job for a client and make it apply to a class or get a work study through the department doing freelance work with them.

    Other than that? I’m a designer… I don’t sleep.

  • edbury

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    4:36 pm

    Full-time university student, 20 hours a week in an office, and another 20ish doing design work.

    In all honesty, I don’t find it that crazy anymore. I know that ToDos and project-oriented management are all the rage, but good ole time-slotting has gotten me through most of it with ease. Office/school hours are all set for me already. I set aside a certain slot of time every day for whatever I need to get done reading/homework-wise (revamped once a quarter, but my workload is usually the same per week). Depending on clients / personal projects, I also set aside some time (usually when I -should- be sleeping) to tear into design stuff.

    When all is said and done, I find I’ve got enough time in the week leftover to have a social life and putz around aimlessly as much as needed.

  • Stuart

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    6:22 pm

    Another thing I did while I was working on a Masters. I bought an elliptical machine. Then I kept track of stuff I had to memorize in a software flash card program. I put the computer at eye level and studied my flash cards while working out on the elliptical machine. It kept me awake while studying, helped me stay in shape, and made my learning repetitive.

  • ephi

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    7:39 pm

    I usually have to do list with an estimated time of completion.

    Then you have to work your daily schedules, how many hours do you want to spend on work+blog+study everyday? I insert my to-dos into these slots and usually I can figure out beforehand if somethings needed more time than the allocated time (Design a mock-up or paper submission), I can inform or negotiate the time extension with related people.

    Never negotiate time to sleep and eat, it’s a necessity to keep your health in balance.

  • MY PDNA

    gravatarFeb 25, 2008
    11:14 pm

    How do you manage your time and the increased anxiety?

    I am just schooling and acing my computer science based program.

    I speed -read .. just breeze through or skim the stuff that were are not tested on .. when there is a test coming up I review… I try to make my review more active or applied where possible and seek help where needed.

    I started working out recently and hope to keep it up everyday

    you shoudl schedule yourself. a program like Karen’s countdown timer, or MyLifeOrganized can work miracles for time management and reminders.. some sticky notes can be good too.

    it feels really great to be more motivated than others :D ..

    so pick something and get it done. That is a skill. I fail to realize it myself a lot.

    Think of the steps you need to do it. DO step 1. Tell yourself it will take just 30 seconds.. and get down to it!

  • Michiel

    gravatarFeb 26, 2008
    12:53 am

    I did a full time masters, 4 nights a week (5 years), while working 4 days a week as a creative at an advertising company.

    My personal life was completely destroyed. But it gave me new friends instead and a lot of new knowledge, a better paid job and more respect. From myself and others.

    My advice: Take your time off. My anxiety went completely out of control and I got burned out.

  • catherine

    gravatarFeb 26, 2008
    1:24 am

    Blog about what you’re studying. Relate it to everyday life, your day job, anything. You’ll learn the material better – and we’ll learn it too!

  • tb

    gravatarFeb 26, 2008
    4:50 am

    Hi. I squeezed a masters into 12 months, had a 20 hr-per-week assistantship and worked full time – so I understand your stress. i lived on very little sleep, mapped out my day everyday, always had my studying with me to catch up on during any lulls. Also, I could not have done it without help from my friends. everything from sometimes chauffeuring me to my next thing, to making me take a break when i needed it (but a short one!). one key way i coped with the major lack of sleep was that i learned the art of the 20 minute power nap – done right, your brain feels like it got a good 4 hours. and another core thing – good food. I mean healthy. tons of fruits and vegetables and very balanced. it made a HUGE difference in my energy and mental acuity.
    good luck!!! keep your eye on the prize

  • Brian

    gravatarFeb 26, 2008
    7:48 am

    I was working full-time when I went back to school, but my chosen field of study (theatre) did not schedule classes that would fit my 9-to-5 job. I scaled back to part-time, changed shifts… nothing worked and eventually I left the company in order to finish my studies.

    Only drawback to that… I’m graduating in May with my Bachelor’s degree, but also with close to $30K in student loans and credit card debt.

  • doane

    gravatarFeb 26, 2008
    8:13 am

    I know it stinks right now but try and find peace in knowing that your current schedule is not going to last forever and that the time your putting into yourself today will be your reward in the future.

  • Brendon

    gravatarFeb 26, 2008
    3:33 pm

    I’m in an MBA program and working full time. What I do to cope is take it a week at a time. Literally. If I don’t have much do next week I know I can take it easy this weekend. It’s gotten me through two years so far.

  • Clark

    gravatarFeb 26, 2008
    5:42 pm

    Take it day by day with the realization that it will soon be over. Prioritize and don’t fret over missing the last items on your list. Take time for fresh air, power naps, and smaller more frequent meals.

  • Bill

    gravatarFeb 27, 2008
    10:27 am

    Great to read everyone’s comments!

    I’m in a similar boat; FT job, 2 classes, and trying to actually enjoy life.

    Assuming your class is at night, one thing that has helped me is to immediately start on that homework right after class lets out. First, it helps me to know going into class that I am dedicating the entire evening to coursework…not just the 3 hour class. It sounds long on paper, but in practice it’s helped.

    My grades have improved since starting this, mostly due to the fact I’m doing the work RIGHT after class…so it’s fresh in my mind and I tend to cruise through it rather than trying to remember what the prof said or going over my notes. And if you finish or get the majority done that night, you don’t have to worry about it the rest of the week.

    It can make for a long day, but it’s been worth it for me – and gives me a great sense of accomplishment.

  • Monica J

    gravatarFeb 28, 2008
    10:59 am

    Ugh, this reminds me of my life.

    What I suggest is this: Wake up early. Do whatever you can then. The day is calm, no one else is around (and if you are in a lab situation like I am) you can use all the equipment at once.

    Take notes. Lots of them. Order things by date.

    If you have free time where you are still feeling productive, be productive. Get something done. This will make up for those days when you just want to lie down and look at the ceiling for the shear sake of doing absolutely nothing,

    Structure your down time (commute time, I spend a lot of time on the bus) and use it for something.

    Eat well. Don’t work while eating.

    Get rid of your TV. You won’t be needing it.

    As for life, your real friends will understand. They will be busy as well, but any friendship worth having is worth working for.

    I took Differential Equations in a summer 6-week session, as an elective. I was working 2 jobs and applying to grad schools. I have felt your pain. It won’t get easier, but you will get used to it.

  • PA

    gravatarFeb 28, 2008
    7:26 pm

    School is all day Mon & Wed, and half of Friday. I get home at 6pm on M & W and eat, relax for an hour or two, then tackle homework. No sleep until it’s done.

    Work 3 hours every morning, and do 12 hours on Tues and Thurs, plus 5 or 6 Friday and Sunday.

    Saturday is homework and relaxation. And housecleaning and laundry.

    And no matter what anyone says, sleep is more important than anything else.

  • Julian Schrader

    gravatarFeb 29, 2008
    10:56 am

    I’m about to finish school (~2 months from now) and therefore not working very much –” just the bit I manage to sneak in here and there ;-)

  • Angela

    gravatarFeb 29, 2008
    11:40 am

    You will always find people that can write a thesis, work three jobs and be the star of their soccer league, all at the same time. However, these people are rare (I think doctors belong in this category–somehow they get through medical school on no sleep).

    But if this is not you, don’t try to force yourself to be one–it won’t work. If you’re a perfectionist this will hard to come to terms with. But I tend to believe what my mother said, who tried working, going to school and also raising us simultaneously: you can do two things ok at once but not three.

  • craz

    gravatarMar 1, 2008
    7:19 pm

    This is pretty sad but I’m in high school. My school has more homework than the average school, I take 7 courses and there are 18 units in each course (each averaging 6-7 hours).

    The thing is, a lot of people in the school can manage a decent social life and a job at the same time, whereas I’m all school, manage to squeeze in some social here or there but rarely, and have no job. I can’t seem to make time for anything… It’d be great for you to write a post to end my troubles

  • SK

    gravatarMar 2, 2008
    6:43 am

    To me what’s interesting is how I’ve stumbled onto many of the same time saving habits. For me the work week is 7am to 10pm. I work a normal full time job a 30 hour a week part time job and go to school full time at night. Any day I only have to work only one job I consider a day off. Here are a couple things that help me:

    I can not remember the last time I watched tv. If there is something I really want to watch (which there’s not much) I PVR it.

    When studying, classical music keeps me on track and is less distracting (thanks Pandora).

    30 minute bursts work wonders. Set the cell phone alarm and clean a room until it goes off.

    Meal planning. Being way for most meals I eat alot of bag lunches. I am just starting to experiment with a grocery service. This way I can order premade meals for days I don’t have time to prepare anything and cuts down shopping.

    Sleep. Don’t get behind or everything suffers. Schedule ‘me’ time.

  • Steven

    gravatarMar 3, 2008
    12:32 pm

    After spending my undergrad years trying to do too much, I decided to limit my work + classes + studying to 50 hours a week, and stick to it. The number may be different for others, but having a weekly time budget keeps things in perspective.

  • Sonya

    gravatarMar 6, 2008
    8:31 pm

    I just finished a masters while working full time and teaching part time. My key is to set a kitchen timer. I work in 15 minute increments, and then I set a reasonable amount of time to work every day. For discrete math I budgeted about 10 hours per week. Often I didn’t really need that much. I would make a hashmark for every 15 minute chunk I completed. The timer served two purposes – it allowed me to track my time, and it reminded me to stop and do something else if I was frustrated and hadn’t accomplished anything in the last 15 minutes. I think that’s truly the most valuable thing – especially with heavy computer science and math courses. There comes a point where you’re just spinning your wheels and sitting there for another 3 hours isn’t going to help. At that point sleep is infinitely more productive. The timer reminds you to stop as soon as you begin that cycle.

    Good luck!

  • Adam

    gravatarMar 8, 2008
    5:50 pm

    I have a tech startup, I’m finishing a BS in Mechanical Engineering and I’m trying to have a life. Result: regular flares of Crohn’s Disease! AARG!

  • Lucy Osualeja

    gravatarMar 14, 2008
    8:53 am

    i run a weekend programme in the school and i work, most times i close late and when i got home and feel tired and couldn’t read.

    i will like you to advise me on wwhat steps to take cos they are vey important in my life.

    best regards

  • J David

    gravatarMay 3, 2008
    7:19 pm

    I couldn’t handle business school and life and blogging. I had to give up blogging (before I gave up on life…)