How do I manage time for other activities while going to college?

How do I complete this side course on React when I have a full-time job and a family?

After mentoring 1000s of students through the Udacity platform and spending 4 years in college, I have been asked these questions many times. When asked, I have often replied with what came first to my mind, since it was all so tiring and all repeating the same thing again and again.

And these bits of advice helped people. But I feel sorry that I didn't provide them with the full package of information. So I am going to document it in the most comprehensive way for future reference.

Time management is easy once you understand the fundamentals. If you search Google, you will find a countless amount of tricks and hacks on the topic and here are some that I find most valuable as per personal experiences.

(1) Use passive activity time

Passive activities are moments where you are not using your brain and not doing active, challenging thinking. For example, when you are traveling via bus. You don't actually need to control the bus or stay alert of what's going on the streets during this time. So you can use this time to learn things such as by listening to a podcast, reading ebooks, watching video tutorials, etc.

(2) Reduce time on entertainment and social activities

Don't take this too seriously because we are humans and we need some time to unwind and connect. But there is often a limit to it. Like, you can do just well with 3hr of breaks and entertainment per day. So you can use the remaining time that you usually spend on entertainment on being productive and doing work.

(3) Cut down time wasted on "work"

Most of the time you spend doing "work" isn't actually meaningful work. Remember the 80/20 principle, the 80% of results you get comes from 20% of your efforts. Following the same logic, we can conclude that most of the "work" you do doesn't amount to big results. Identifying these types of work and replacing them with other activities like learning or real productive work, will help you get more productive as a whole.

Example - Reading a whole text book will fall under the 80% category of work which just gives 20% of results. You can skip it entirely and rather focus on summaries, Internet articles, and such.

(4) Fix toxic habits

This is pretty much self-explanatory. You don't need to watch Netflix for 4 hours to survive. You can do without it, and methinks you will be more satisfied with your no-4-hour Netflix version than the former in any point in the future. So? You already know what to do.

(5) Create artificial deadlines

Deadlines create urgency and urgency creates results, and that too in the shortest time possible. Often deadlines are also the difference between doing a thing and not doing it at all (as you postpone it infinitely). With that said, you can already realize why deadlines are so powerful.

  • Want to write a blog post? Create a 15 min deadline and do it.
  • Want to finish one lesson of a Udacity course? Give yourself time till the end of the day and do it.
  • Want to learn a programming language? Break down its concepts in parts, give each part a small deadline and do it.

The last point is important. Deadlines won't work without urgency. So a long deadline (multiple days) is meaningless. Rather, break the large task you have into small parts and give each of them tight deadlines.

(6) Multitask

This is kind of derived from #1 but it deserves its own section. Often times, there is work that you can't avoid and that doesn't consume too much of your nerve cells. For example, attending a large meeting, or sitting in a conference. You can use this time to multitask i.e. do what you want to do with being aware of what is going on in the world outside so that you can hop back if needed.

(7) Other small tricks

  • Disable notifications on your phone to avoid getting distracted.
  • Use a todo list for more clarity.
  • Log your time every day to see what are you spending on the most.
  • Maintain proper health and get good sleep to be in your best productive form when you actually work.
  • ...
  • ...
  • Stop wasting time reading educational/motivational/important stuff on the Internet and get some real work done.