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How do you fit your studies/job around the rest of your life?

  1. May 11, 2012 #1
    When you have lots and lots to learn, how do you handle it all? Do you have a specific schedule that you stick to or are you more flexible? What works best for you? When you burn out, what do you do? How do you fit in everything?

    (thank you)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2012 #2
    Rephrase the question as "how do you fit your social life around your studies / job?". It makes the answer much simpler.
  4. May 13, 2012 #3

    I'm a huge nerd (in my opinion anyway - I read comics, enjoy nerdy humour, love science). However, studying is still just *one* part of my life, not all of it. I haven't yet figured out how to do everything that I find equally important and I'm having trouble gauging how long I can space the things I do, before I forget what I previously learned (i.e, forget the very little details of everything).

    In a month, once my finals are over, I will have the following to do:
    - learn how to code (will use the Zed Shaw Python book)
    - learn (more) about the revolutions (industrial and French, Russian) and the world wars
    - learn calculus from the books Spivak and Apostol
    - read a few novels and plays
    - take SATs
    - complete college applications and write the essays
    - sports/bulking up

    Now that I've typed it all out, it seems like not much at all. I'm sure there's some more things that I might have omitted. I'll also have an afternoon job.

    On second thought, your idea sounds like a cool one. How about studying (calc and coding) in the morning, from 7 to 11 (with breaks included) and then doing a little of everything else in between that and the afternoon job? Is something like this what you meant?
  5. May 13, 2012 #4
    -Find out what it is you value enough to spend time on and make a list (e.g. to finish a certain book, learn a language, delve further into calculus, etc.)

    -Break each item on the list down into chunks.

    Now you can set goals and this goal-setting process is itself a learning process. What I mean by that is no one can tell you how long it will take you to reach any level of competancy in a specific discipline. You have to practice setting these goals, adjust them as you get a better feel for the degree of difficulty, and learn how to set more applicable goals next time.

    -Do a little bit every day. This ensures that whatever it is you are doing stays fresh in your mind. Also, I have found that if I make myself spend 10 minutes studying/working I keep at it once the ball is rolling and often spend over an hour on whatever it is I started. It also helps you get a better feel for how long it might take you to reach your final goal of whatever degree of competancy you are looking for as I was discussing above.

    -Before you go to bed review your day's activities. Seek out and eliminate time-sinks. There are so many enjoyable, stress-relieving things you can do that are also productive that it's a wonder how popular some forms of entertainment have become. For me, it was gaming.

    -Make better habbits. It's still possible to do this at any age. For example, I used to hang my coat on the same chair every day for many years. It was hard to break this habbit but don't look at it like that. Look at it like you're forming a new habbit: to immediately hang your coat in the closet when you remove it. The same goes for studying, working, cleaning, and even things like personal hygiene and diet.

    Regarding studying I find it more efficient to start with the review and seek out an overarching structure of the material before diving into the details. Unfortunately these are usually at the end of a chapter in textbooks. This helps build the connections between ideas that will solidify these memories.

    Also, creating a cheat sheet is very helpful. Sure, most classes don't allow them, but the idea behind the process is very important. You're basically summarizing everything you need to know in a condensed form for reference at any point. Writing it all out helps to begin with, sure, but you will also be able to form connections between these ideas and more easily understand how much material there is still to understand/memorize.

    Those are just some of the techniques I have employed that have drastically increased my productivity. Good luck and stick to it!
  6. May 13, 2012 #5
    You're going to need alot more time for programming IMO, and I would recommend starting with C, not Python.
  7. May 13, 2012 #6
    Did you just finish your second to last year of high school? If so, I wouldn't worry too much about SATs and college stuff just yet. At least not at the beginning of your summer. Then again, I'm not exactly sure on typical due dates of where you are from. I'd put more focus on doing what you enjoy on your breaks. And when you need a break from your hobbies, study.
  8. May 13, 2012 #7
    i study to *understand* what i'm studying. this eliminates memorization that has no basis to remember. because you are trying to understand the material, it doesn't matter how many hours it takes. if it takes 14 hours straight to get it done, so be it. some tips: before exams, i step through *everything*. i save every scrap of paper. they can test your 'instant recognition'. if you're really paying attention to the teacher, her behaviors can sometimes help you predict what might on the test.

    with a part time job, if i have any life remaining, i may use it to relax. i do not maintain a social life, drinking and partying does not interest me. if this is important to you and you still want an unclouded head before tests, i suggest retooling your strategies.
  9. May 14, 2012 #8
    ^ A social life doesn't necessarily entail "Drinking and partying"...
  10. May 14, 2012 #9
    while i may be hasty with my post, "drinking and partying" is a social life. [edit] i drink a lot of coffee...
  11. May 15, 2012 #10
    Excellent! I've been doing something like that for a while now but I wasn't sure how things were gonna pan out. Since that works for you, maybe it will work out fine with me too.
    Good idea. I freaked out when I looked at things from a "laundry list" perspective. It all looks more fun and less scary when it looks like things I'd be happy to do. So, little by little, and eventually, it'll get done.

    I do that a lot actually! It started off as a way to see if I still remembered and understood what I had learned and it evolved to more of an "analysis" of my day.

    What else can you think of, besides gaming? I have both Witcher games in mind. I haven't played the second one's Enhanced Edition and am looking forward to it.

    I saw this elsewhere on PF and it seems to help.
    Terry Tao, on his blog, said - paraphrasing here - that one only really understands a subject when he can write a thoroughly on it. (he actually said writing a book but I think even notes would be fine, so long as they're thorough)


    Out of curiosity, how do you "relax"?

    One can have an alcohol-free social life. I also did not specify "social life" in the OP but thanks for your opinion.
  12. May 15, 2012 #11
    a videlia onion isn't a yellow onion since not all yellow onions are videlias. but of course a videlia onion is a yellow onion. obviously not all social lives entail drinking. my point is that this kind of social life, and too much of a social life, i want to add, is going to get in the way of your time focus and understanding. and i might even conjecture, since it is true for me, this will the cause of your burn out, not the studying, when you have to deal with the many stressors associated with a problematic social life.

    if you can find a social life that is relaxing and doesn't overload or cause too much distraction, then you are way ahead of me. i've known courses where i knew i would fail to a B grade if i missed a single day of class. can you keep your focus when life is so distracting?

    i work 40 hours and study 3 to 4 hours after work to midnight and 6 hours on my two off days in preparations for returning to university. this is routine effort. when my computer was working, i would relax playing video games. now that its broken i feel almost free that i have more time to study. i may read in bed if i'm not too tired.
  13. May 15, 2012 #12
  14. May 15, 2012 #13
    I found Python a better entry point than C - I learned both simultaneously.

    There are two traditional ways that programming is taught in college:
    (1) As a computer science class, delving in some theoretical topic while using a particular language for implementation, e.g. Haskell/OCaml/F# for a logic class.
    (2) As an "application of language X for non-majors" class, e.g. Java for engineers.

    I've realized that this is very wrong for a non-CS major and this paradigm of education arises because these programming classes are taught precisely by the computer science department that holds some strange assumptions about high school preparation of programming (they think you took a half-baked course - well, I never took programming).

    I think what is important for a non-major at the introductory level is neither the complete set of a particular language nor the fundamentals of computer science, but the ability to thereafter acquire applicable-level of knowledge of any new language in 1-2 weeks. Silly as it sounds, I passed by milestones of 10, 20, 30k lines of finalized project code without ever knowing what a "compiler" is. What could have been useful to me, however, was if I was taught how to learn another language.

    What's great about Python as a first language is perhaps more realizable to someone who has tried writing an introductory textbook (I have). I find it a priority to point out to my readers exactly the point when I have given them enough tools: Turing proved for us that only six primitives are all you need for computation. I simply find it faster with Python to reach a point and tell my readers that they've reached Turing-completeness, and all further reading is just syntactic sugar and recipes for their own good.

    The other thing that I found teachers unaware of is that interest decays. If you tried learning a human language for example, you start full of excitement and quickly figure out how to swear in every possible way. Then you reach the part where the grammar gets complicated, and meet all of the exceptions of the language, it gets really boring and tedious. In fact, there is a philosophy for teaching Japanese that is built around the fact that interest does indeed decay, and studies have shown that you can achieve better results by adjusting the rate of reward/effort.

    What I'm driving at is that even getting C to compile on a stock Windows machine is a pain for the first-time programmer (I've been there), and very unrewarding. The result is that I'd have taken more time learning the same amount of "C then Python" instead of "Python then C".
  15. May 15, 2012 #14
    As for Mépris, here's my take at it. I remember an article on Harvard Business Review that looked into common behavior of successful people, and they noticed that all of them have the same approach to goals. They like to set goals, but very specific and detailed ones.

    I elaborate. "Lose weight" is a classical goal. The reason why most people never accomplish it is that they don't know how much weight they want to lose. Now, if you said, "Lose 2.4lbs by 30 June 2012", then you feel inclined to get a weighing scale if you don't already, and schedule your gym sessions.

    I've been at the phase in high school when I told myself to "Learn calculus through Apostol".


    But after 1 chapter (I did Spivak), I never really bothered to go on. It's neither because I'm particularly lazy nor I found it too challenging, but that I actually accomplished my goal! Well, I had already learned (some) calculus!

    Here are some questions for you:

    - learn how to code (will use the Zed Shaw Python book) How many lines of code? How much time do you give yourself? Can you name a particular class of problem you want to solve at the final stage of your endeavor? Say, write something to triangulate a geometry and solve a CFD problem?
    - learn calculus from the books Spivak and Apostol How many problems do you want to finish on each book, and by which date?
    - take SATs What is your target score? What is the maximum times you're allowing yourself to retake? Have you registered already? Register now!
    - sports/bulking up What level of fitness do you want to reach? State a quantifiable threshold to cross, e.g. complete a 10 mile run in ?? minutes by the end of summer, finish ??th place in X triathlon

    The other thing is time management or scheduling. If you're not a natural, then like me, figure out a consistent way to schedule your activities and make it a habit. Sounds like a vague advice, but there's really no further elaboration. What I like to do (you don't have to follow) is to classify my tasks in a 2x2 grid.

    ------------ | IMPORTANT |--| NOT IMPORTANT| --

    Important & urgent - File a tax form
    Important & not urgent - Build a backup server for my work.
    Not important & urgent - Prepare for girlfriend's birthday. (I hope she doesn't read this!)
    Not important & not urgent - Upload all those pesky facebook photos and clear up some space on my hard disk.

    If you guessed correctly, you're managing time properly if and only if most of your tasks lie in the "important & not urgent" box.
  16. May 15, 2012 #15
    I suggest a lower level object oriented language before python first as well. C++ is a great option.

    What I've found in programming is that the hardest parts are learning how to debug, the logic behind programming, how different scripts/functions interconnect, how to look for solutions to problems, how compilers work, etc. All of this stuff is basically the same for all languages. What always changes, though, is the specific syntax. Much like in writing where some rule-sets prefer a comma before the 'and' in a list and some don't. The idea is the same but the little details change.

    What you have with C and its derivatives is that it's a lot more... formal. It doesn't have an interpreter like python so you have to plug in all the details. These details are very important to learn. But with python they're often not necessary because it literally interprets what you're coding on the fly even without compiling the code.

    Obviously that has its benefits as it's much easier to write quick scripts in.


    On the other hand, I agree with every point meanrev made regarding programming. Python is MUCH easier to dive into because it lacks the learning curve on how to set up a compiler, which databases to use, and many of the gritty and often unnecessary details.

    There is a third option that I would suggest maybe over the other two. Matlab is based on a form of C. It's often used in engineering/science as a way to manage and deal with data, calculate, plot, model, etc. It's also affordable, easy to install (there is a .exe that does it all for you), and my favorite part is that it has a little symbol next to the line of code you're on. If you click it a super easy to use search function pops up and you can type a function name or something that has to do with what you are thinking you want to write and it does a great job at giving you all the necessary details of what and how to use it.

    So, easy to use and it teaches you the necessary syntax... best of both worlds.

    Whichever route you take once you learn the core logic and syntax of a lower-level language like C++ you will be able to reference a cheat-sheet and code in many other languages with just a little effort.
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
  17. May 16, 2012 #16
    My job is my life. When I was in school, that was my job.

    But if my job was not a perfect fit for me such that it was the most fun that I could imagine, the I would quit and find another. I've changed jobs more than once when it was time to do something else in order to continue my personal development.

    But I've always also been very much aware of what Einstein summed up so nicely: "Creativity is the residue of time wasted." When looking for a creative solution, I will find a way to get away from it and rest the mind. For that I practice many types of meditation. A six hour game of solitaire or a long weekend spent underwater burning up 30 SCUBA tanks can both be excellent meditations.

    I've been successful at everything I've ever intended to do for the last five decades because these methods make me both a very effective learner and a highly creative problem solver.
  18. May 16, 2012 #17
    Also when I have something difficult to learn I approach it like weight training. I hit it with great intensity for a short period of time, then I rest my mind for a while before returning to it for another "set." I had a job in a machine shop when I was in high school. When I had to learn my trig identities I put them on cards and posted then all around the shop. Every time I walked past a card, I looked at it. I learned them much more quickly than any one else in class.
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
  19. May 16, 2012 #18
    Guess I'm going to show my age here, but back in the 70s the entry point was MU BASIC for non-majors. It had most of the elements of programming and it was nothing short of dirt simple to learn and write. However, IMO, if you really want to program, you really need a more fundamental understanding of what's happening. In college, we started with machine language and something called the "tape machine", e.g. we programmed on "0" and "1" in a sequence that made something happen. e.g. we sent text from one teletype (those are the old machines you see printing in B/W reruns like "The FBI", lol) to another, did basic math, etc. just using "0" and "1" strings. As a practical matter, it wasn't hard, but it took a lot of time. However, when finished, you had a good handle on what was happening behind the scenes in memory and the processor. The next part of the course was assembly language, which is a step up from machine language that made writing code much easier and faster, but it still took time and the goal wasn’t obvious to look at. Then we went to a higher level language like BASIC, FORTRAN, or business majors did COBAL. Later I taught myself LISP for "fun", never used it and forgot it. So, why do I suggest learning programming this way? There is so much bloat-wear out there these days. People don't bother writing efficient code because the computers are fast enough to overcome poor coding skills. IMO, a proper education in coding should include compact efficient coding. Additionally, if you code for process control or a device with very limited computer capability, you may need some of these skills. As a physics major, I actually used these skills.
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