Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A balancing act

Sorry that I've been remiss on here. I have definitely been drafting out posts every few weeks, so hopefully I'll get organized and actually post them! Stay tuned! tSH

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Many warned me that doing a masters program while still maintaining my job full time was a mistake. That I would be overwhelmed.

I brushed their remarks aside, thinking rather arrogantly, as most people do, that I would be the exception to the rule. I'd never had problems with studying or time management previously; I finished two bachelor degrees in four years when it takes the average student more like five years to complete one. No, productivity has never been an issue for me and in this instance I figured it wouldn't be as well.

But there were a lot of factors that I didn't take into account:
  • I'm older. As much as I'd like to say that this makes no difference as I am still not married nor do I have children, I have noticed a very slight physical and mental decline. I get tired more easily and actually need sleep, it makes a difference whether or not I've had enough food. Accounting time for brain space and energy is something I've never experienced until now.
  • I have a job. This should be obvious, but to me it actually wasn't. I had no issues with time management when I did my undergrad because I was only doing my undergrad classes. I did have a job for a fair portion of my schooling (a very decent smattering of working for an independent jewelry maker, a stint at Charlotte Russe that resulted in a hilarious class-action suit (which never went through I believe), and several months at Linen N Things (rest in peace), before starting my internship at Digitaria and onto the professional world). But nothing to this magnitude; nothing that would keep me at the office all day and let me come home to find a brain drained and utterly useless for studying.
  • I have emotions. You wouldn't think this would make a difference but it actually does. I feel a considerable amount of things like laziness, disinterest, procrastination. I never really had these before; just an occasional small amount of tiredness, which was usually solved by a quick run. Ah, the beauty and vigor of youth.
There are good weeks and bad weeks and many of them hinge on how well I've slept, how much I've been able to eat (which has been a strategy in it of itself...trying to find enough time to eat anything at all), whether or not I get my weekly yoga session in (now completely nonnegotiable, every Tuesday evening), and how much I've gone out (there is a direct correlation between more social life and less study time, which in turn leads to feeling buried).

I make it sound like it's all bad...it's certainly not. There were many wonderful surprises that I also didn't foresee:
  • Better concentration. Though I am not able to concentrate as long (nor do I have the actual time), the times I have enough brain space and energy are pretty damn productive. I sail through readings and concepts assuming I've had enough rest and food.
  • Drive. Passion is better than time. I have more passion for the subjects I'm studying than I ever did in undergraduate. I want to be here, I'm paying to be here, I'm sacrificing to be here. You're damn right that I'm interested. I look forward to coming home to statistics reading, even if I feel like I'm failing at it. Now if only I had enough brain space every day to actually be productive with it...
  • New friends. I thought I would make some new friends with classmates, but I didn't expect the deluge of friendships I would make and how strongly they would solidify. These are people I've known for less than a month (at the original time of writing), and yet we go out at least once a week if not more, and no one is excluded.
And so it has become a game of strategies instead, of waiting to see how long it takes me to build a routine that productively works and balances my full time work with part time studying. After whining to several different people about feeling overwhelmed, a few pointers have come up:
  • Studying in the morning. If your brain is drained at night from the full day's work or classes that you just experienced, why not study first thing in the morning before your energy is all used up? I have no idea why I never thought about this previously, and it's genius. I've been trying it for the past couple of days with mixed results (I've been under with the flu), but I think this could be the start of something really good.
  • Smarter not harder. Prioritization has become absolutely key. It's hard for me to do well with this; I'm so used to being able to do everything I want and getting everything done. Gone are the days where I can have a full time job, do all the readings and exercises for class, and still maintain a social life in the way I have been for years. Now it's time to understand what is actually important: I can skim the readings for one class to make more time for the class I'm still struggling in. I can cut my social life so I have more time for sleep, studying, or eating. I can work from home and do both work and study. I can use commute times as my zen meditation moments for each day.
  • Perspective. Another one of those hard lessons for me; even though I'm fully vested in my masters program and my work and I still want to be a super star in both...what is important at the end of the day? I am not planning to do a PhD following this (though I seriously considered it, for about a day)...the marks I get are for myself more than anyone else. I'm not competing against my classmates who have all day to study and have a social life. I am doing this for me. Whether or not I ace statistics has very little bearing on whether or not I should be happy in life; I got into this degree for a reason and that was not to be an expert at statistics. Remembering what is important has been key.
And so the first several weeks of my program have begun and my life has been changing. So many things have happened I don't even know how to describe them.

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Though it's been several weeks since I originally wrote this, it all stands true still. I do struggle making things balance and finding enough time for exercise, food, and sleep. I have dedicated weekend studying time now with a partner in the library to make sure things get done.

And now. The adventures continue, I'll be sure to post about some of my more hilarious experiences another time. This is just a taster of my life now.

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