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Hey there, design reader!

Thea here, again or, if you didn’t catch my piece last week, then for the first time! I’m a part-time student at Designlab’s UX Academy, Weingart cohort, and this is the second post in a 24-part series I’ll be doing chronicling my experience in the program week-by-week.

I had hoped that the tale of my second week in UX Academy would be one of triumph: all work completed and submitted on time or even (fingers crossed) with time to spare—so much time to spare, in fact, I could even brag about being able to tackle all of the course’s additional optional lessons (and then some).

That’s not what happened—not by a long shot.

Shall we jump right in?

Get ready to hustle, and then hustle your hustle (rinse and repeat)

My motto for week 2 has been, “Keep it tight—on time!”

What I mean by that is, with all the competing priorities that come along with working and studying UX Academy simultaneously, developing good time management has been paramount. The demands of coursework, deadlines, mentor Skype sessions (I’d budget for the full hour—we’ve gone to the minute or over every time), and Group Crits (hour-long weekly Zoom critique sessions with fellow UXA-ers at various stages of their studies) are rigorous, to say the least.

You have to show up prepared for all of it, or you won’t get nearly everything out of it that you could. And that takes some serious planning. Even in the part-time track, I have found myself needing to double-down on my schedule.

The dream calendar

The “dream” calendar, based on a weekly planning strategy recommended by my beloved Spark Planner (now Ink+Volt)

This is an example of a calendar I laid out for myself at the beginning of the course. While I decreased my work immensely before the start of UX Academy, I wasn’t able to drop all of my client work completely (a woman’s got to eat, right?) But I did try to give myself a head start and be extremely realistic in my scheduling of everyday things, down to the basic routine items you might not realize have the potential to sponge up your time. This included factoring in blocks on the schedule for meals, chores, downtime with my partner, and daily necessities like basic hygiene.

The blue represents blocked off time for UX Academy coursework and homework assignments. The orange represents social and personal commitments. And yes, you’re seeing that right—I actually did schedule time in my busy week to wash my hair. As all the long-haired ladies out there know, this business can be a real chore (and a time suck). Finally, the pink represents a mix of my other part-time/freelance work (for the roof and the foods!).

However, Murphy’s Law being what it is, I knew this dream calendar was a woefully naive one. One of my part-time jobs is managing a beautiful (and slowly disintegrating) 111-year-old historic landmark building—half the time things just straight fall off: doorknobs, towel racks, light fixtures—you name it. Anything can and does happen, from time to time, and given that I just mentioned Murphy’s Law, I’m betting you know where this is going.

The proverbial hit the fan in the second half of week two, when I was smacked with a double-whammy of the tech-reliant workaholic’s worst nightmare. First: I dropped my phone flat on its face and, though it appeared to come out of the nosedive unscathed, the screen itself was completely unresponsive—it became an overpriced paperweight in “space gray” that vibrated intermittently (emails!). That was Thursday. A small setback, but one I felt confident I could get through. A few days without my phone? I’m a grown woman, after all, who lived through the late 80s and 90s—what was another day or two without my pocket supercomputer, right?


Figuring I was safe from any massive emergency calls while I waited for my new phone to be delivered, my boyfriend and I decided to take advantage of the screen break and went to a concert on Sunday night. Embarrassed by how many times I instinctively reached to check my phone even when it wasn’t operational, I opted to leave all backup digital modes of communication at home for the couple of hours we planned to be out. Three hours later we were interrupted by his phone ringing non-stop—a barrage of unknown numbers (my tenants—red alert! State of emergency declared!)

We rushed home to find three floors dripping with water, trickling through floors, walls and light fixtures. A ruptured water heater on the top floor flooded through the apartment below it, and water found its way two floors down via an ancient chandelier that was still on despite being drenched in flowing “wall water.” It was a huge mess, requiring two days of plumbing work. And, as a result, this is what happened to my calendar for the week:

The reality calendar

My completely bombed “reality” calendar

See all the red scratch marks and aggressive lettering? All of my happy orange social commitments went straight out the window. (Full disclosure: I also pushed washing my hair another three days, which was excruciating, both for myself and anyone who happened to catch me from downwind).

Seriously, I have no idea how these full-timers do it (work, UX Academy, or for the particularly ambitious, both simultaneously!)—sheesh!

What started out as a perfectly on track, triumphant week two, had turned into a landslide of debris free-flowing right into week three. If I was going to make up for all the time I’d lost, I’d need to buckle down at my desk and work in triple time, saying c’est la vie to any potential time sucks that might hurdle themselves in my way. This challenge—to dig in, work harder and faster through any and all obstacles—dearest design reader, will be the focus of next week’s post.

Read the next installment! Week 3: Hitching A Ride Out Of Procrastination Station

Looking for a change of careers? Designlab’s UX Academy program offers rigorous curriculum, personalized mentor support, and a thriving, global student community. Ready to launch your new career as a UX designer? Get all the details here.

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Thea Chard

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