Adventures in Time Management: 9-5

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I ran a brief life-hack experiment regarding treating college as a 9-5 job. I can't claim originality of the idea-I know I've heard it mentioned a couple of times before, but I don't remember where I first encountered it.

As you may have noticed, Oliners are a busy bunch. We take challenging-is-an-understatement classes with enthusiasm, pursue extracurricular interests passionately and usually can't resist getting involved in any good project. This semester alone I've been regularly involved in 4 classes, teaching engineering at a high school, a Spanish language co-curricular, the student Catholic association, writing this blog, job searching for the summer, a three-college culture and leadership group, and getting sucked (very willingly!) into late-night conversations about politics, philosophy, meta-Olin and "woah, how does that work!".

I have two key observations to set the context for this experiment:

  1. There are so many awesome things to do and learn in the world!
  2. I'm happier when I eat and sleep and have quiet-time regularly.

In order to maximize my ability to do both of those things, I've decided to just try a couple different time management/work theories and see what happens.

The 9-5 theory is pretty simple-treat classes as a clock-in/clock-out job. No wasting time on the job; no putting things off until midnight; but at 5pm, you're done.

Here were my observations:
1) Quantity of Time: 9-5, with no lunch, is a 40-hour work week. A normal semester load of 16 credits is theoretically a 48-hour week (1 credit = 3 hours/week, including class time, homework, projects and studying). 9-5 may simply not be realistic. However, I'm pretty sure I can't work 9am-7pm at 100% capacity-when I thought I was going to have longer days, I tended to hit a mental block somewhere around 3pm and either become very inefficient or take a break. I do not think I could have gotten all of my work done in 8 hours a day, and I usually realized this early in the day which made it hard to stay on track during that 3pm slump-because I knew I wasn't actually anywhere near finishing. Working through the evenings also meant I never got the chance to reset and be ready for the next day at "work". Some excerpts from my day to day notes on the experience:

Don't think I can be done by 5; tired; fall apart and take a break...know class will go to 6:30...did not finish approx ; worried I'm falling behind in mp; stay up late working on applications-inefficient

2) Not Like a Job: 8 hours of classwork isn't like working an 8 hour shift, and Olin isn't like a job

a. Transitions: It surprised me how much more mental effort to focus on class work for 8 hours, than, say, working 8 hours in my  research position last summer. At work, I usually had 3-4 major tasks/roles to switch between-with classes I have  roughly that many per class, and just keeping them all straight in my head took some effort. Switching between them also was where I was most likely to get off track-requires more momentum to start a new thing than continue working on a task.

b. Work/non-work: I tried to draw a sharp distinction between class/non-class and treat it as work/non-work. In retrospect,
I probably should have anticipated this-Olin's educational theory includes a "Curriculum Continuum"-which includes formal classes, but also co-curriciular courses, research, service, passionate pursuits, clubs and recreation. Therefore, some of my "non-work" is actually quite a bit like work, and some class stuff is much less like work.

3) Conclusions: Well, it's not going to be my long-term, this-fixed-everything! plan. That being said, I think there are some
helpful bits I can draw out of this. One of them is around the "transitions" point above: what can I do to make those more efficient? Can I plan more ahead for the blocks of time I know I will have lots of tasks to switch between? Maybe a more logical division of time would be "long-tasks", "medium tasks" (a few in a row) and "short tasks" (several in a row). Hmmm...that might actually become the next Adventure.

What about you? Have you ever tried 9-5 school work? Did it work out?

Posted in: Class of 2013