I do my best to get a full night’s sleep, which for me means 7 or 8 hours. I get up at around 6.30am, and start my day either by working out, or by meditating. I use the Headspace app to help me with mindfulness and get myself into a positive frame of mind so that I can power through the day ahead with clarity and energy.
Next, I create a list of to-dos, and fine-tune my calendar for the day ahead while having breakfast or a cup of tea (or coffee, if I’m feeling particularly tired!)
In my job, I work as an account manager in a client-facing role. I also manage an account team of 15-20 people, which involves lots of meetings and calls starting at 8am. After that, I’m usually off out to a client site, and have more meetings during the day, scattered around the financial district of downtown Toronto.
Sweet, sweet lunchtime! For me, I think one of the keys to balancing work and study is making the most of my lunch hour. I spend at least 45 minutes either working through a learning module, or completing part of a capstone. This really helps me to stay on track.
In the afternoon I continue dashing around for work, so on a normal day I can’t make a proper start on Designlab work until client meetings are finished with, which usually isn’t until the early evening.
I get home by 7pm, and make sure to shut my laptop for a couple of hours. I make dinner and maybe listen to a podcast that has nothing to do with either work or UX Academy! Stuff like This American Life, Serial, 2 Dope Queens – or just something on Netflix to watch while cooking and eating.
For a couple of hours in the evening (something like 8pm-10pm), I either do more Designlab coursework, or digest a chapter of a design book I have on the go. For example, at the moment I’m reading Elements of User Experience Design by Jesse James Garrett.
I enforce a hard stop on all work at about 10pm – even if I haven’t got as far as I wanted to. At this point I mentally sign off for the day, read for pleasure for 20 minutes or so, and then fall asleep...
Weekends present a longer stretch of time for UX Academy work, so I use these for coursework sprints or intensive design work. On Saturdays, I allow myself to pull the occasional late night to get the job done, sometimes staying up until 4 or 5am.
Once I get into a state of flow, this just seems to happen naturally. It’s a great feeling to be so focused, and to work late into the night, holed up in my apartment with no distractions. Getting to the end of a big effort like that, and seeing the design deliverable I’ve just created – that’s a wonderful experience.
I also typically join a Group Crits session on Sunday mornings, having prepared for them with my lovely mentor through chats during the previous week.
Keeping life, work, and study in balance
Overall, in spite of the intensity of the workload, I try hard to keep things balanced and in perspective, especially by making sure I sleep well during the week. The weekends are a little harder, as I sometimes have to choose between catching up with friends and diving into a design sprint late into the night, if I know I’m in the zone.
But otherwise, I keep things in balance through exercise, meditation, reading for pleasure, and spending time with friends either cooking, taking in some culture in the city, or just grabbing a couple of drinks.
UX Academy is a big commitment, even when you’re taking it part-time. My biggest piece of advice to new students is to make sure you look after yourself, and keep things in balance. In the long term, to reach your goals, you need to maintain your wellbeing and energy.
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