Maybe you are a student who needs to climb through mountains of homework each week while maintaining a good social profile and good health. You might be a hard working employee who needs to climb through mountains of emails and paperwork each week while maintaining a good social profile, a good health and even a family. Or maybe you are someone different.
Whichever is your case, maybe you’ve also considered learning to program or improving your skills. It’s often like a story we’ve heard a million times: be excited for learning… and go to bed without doing anything.
Regardless of who you are, where you work or study, who you talk to and how you manage each aspect of your life, if you are just a regular mortal like most of us, you have for sure struggled when spending your time. And I might add, you probably keep struggling with it to this very day.
An efficient time management is something so simple and common to hear, yet so hard to achieve. It’s pretty much unbearable to just think about doing something else after busy days in which I feel rushed from one place to another, from one task to the next. What am I supposed to do when I spent all morning in school and the whole afternoon (and part of the night) finishing a project? Learn GoLang?
However, it’s important for our sanity and growth to not see daily tasks as just a gap between us and our beds. Believe me, this isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Acknowledge your priorities
Every person has a different background and different goals, thus they have a unique way to live their daily life. We do lots of different activities each day, some of which we can change, like spending too much time playing video games, and some others that won’t change for now.
But, what’s the real impact of the things we do each day? Which actions should we do? Which ones we shouldn’t even consider? How can we spend more time doing something like learning to code?
Keeping in mind who we want to be weeks, months and even years from now is one of the most game-changing things when we face these questions. This is mainly because we can reverse-engineer that end result and figure out how we can get there, which makes it the most straightforward way to do the essential things for us and provide each day with meaning.
By this I mean that from the tens of activities we do in just one day, there’s likely one or two that we can either stop doing or do differently. I like to think about my day like a schedule, where each block can change in length and shape. Sometimes, there’s aspects about our schedules we can’t change, and we are partially right. However, I’d add some words to that phrase:
Sometimes, there’s aspects of our schedules we can’t change without negative consequences.
Whenever you struggle with the time it takes to complete an activity or you don’t feel it’s worth it, take some time to think and weigh each of your alternatives: How would my life be if I started / stopped doing this activity? If it’s for the better, am I willing to make the change?
Overall, knowing who you want to be in the future will help you define your priorities for the present.
Choose your best cards
Just as we do lots of actions every day, we also face thousands of decisions that we must take, from simple choices like what are we going to have for breakfast, to more complex ones. Now, if we have to make that many decisions in just one day, you can imagine the vast amount of options available for all of them.
Considering a variety of alternatives for each choice is helpful, but if there’s too many of them to choose from you can easily be overwhelmed. This creates a situation where it’s “better ” for us to choose any option rather than to be stuck thinking about all the different paths we can take.
There are plenty of methods and techniques that can help you solve this problem, but the easiest one by far is choosing a small number of activities you want to do the next day (activities which, in the optimal case, completely align with your priorities). By doing this and writing them down, when you wake up you will have a clear idea of what you expect to do during the day. Also, you’ll have a record of what you’ve done in previous days, so you will be able to track your progress and get to know how much you can do for each day.
Before going to bed, write down a small number of activities (maybe 4–6) that you want to complete the next day.
To a certain degree, reducing the amount of decisions we make each day and the number of options we take into account can have a huge impact in our day-to-day lives
Trial and error
The probability of finding the right schedule on the first try is really slim. There are a lot more variables and actions we can play with than we usually recognize when choosing how to spend our time. In order to achieve balance in the time for each activity, you must find a setup that works with you, not your friends, not successful people, but you.
This doesn’t mean that it’s not alright to learn strategies and tips from them, quite the opposite. Most of the time, it’s about the combination of these strategies and not about the strategy itself.
You might find helpful waking up earlier, or going to the gym at noon instead of in the afternoon, or trying to complete your homework while you are at school, maybe all of these, or maybe none.
We commonly understand balance as a 50/50 situation, which to be honest, is pretty accurate. Except that when talking about time, I believe balance depends on us being satisfied with how we spend it and not on the time being spent equitably. Balance is about finding a point of equilibrium, where no single side comes on top of the others.
I originally intended to title this story “How to balance coding and school”, since it’s my current situation. But instead I used the Js template string syntax because, for good or ill, school is not the only time-consuming activity. Even if you don’t like what you spend time on, I think it’s really important to keep in mind that you can always either live in peace with the activity, or change it.