#575 – Registration and Revelation

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Today’s big story is that I completed my registration for spring classes, and I have a monster of a semester ahead of me. I’m taking anatomy & physiology I, applied physics, composition I, and effective learning, a skills class that Austin Community College requires all students to take prior to the end of the first semester of their degree program. That’s 14 credit hours, but that’s not the brutal part.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve got composition in the mornings and effective learning in the afternoons, finishing up my school day at 4:20. The trick is that I’ll need to leave and go straight to my wife’s office to pick her up – she gets off at 4:00 and will have been waiting for close to an hour by the time I can get there.

Mondays and Wednesdays are going to be the test of my ability as a student. Anatomy & physiology starts at 12:00, and applied physics starts at 3:00. Both classes have lecture and labs, so from noon to 5:50 I’ll have only three ten minute breaks.

The real trick is trying to figure out how to manage my time to handle that kind of a workload. The recommendation is that I spend about 40 hours a week outside of the classroom studying, and that means that a lot of things will have to be put on hold for the four months I’ll be working that schedule. I think this is going to be the most difficult semester I’m going to have throughout my degree program, and certainly will be the heaviest courseload.

I went to meet with Student Accessibility Services to arrange registration for my final class today and was told that in the 15 years that she’s sent students to take the A&P entrance exam that I took and passed on Tuesday, I’m only the second one that she’s aware of that passed that exam on their first try. I’m rather surprised at that – I thought the entrance exam was a little easier than my biology midterm, and certainly more straightforward.

Tomorrow I have no obligations, other than to work on homework, and I cannot wait to kinda stick to home. It’s been another busy week.

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That Went Well

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Yesterday I mentioned that I needed some time management skills with our radio station’s manager, and she gave me some advice that I took to heart.

Her recommendation was to use an Android app that has, among other features, a 20/10 timer. When that’s activated, it will count down 20 minutes for you to do whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, and then it gives you a 10 minute time by which you take a break. You don’t finish what you’re doing, you stop right then and there and do something else for ten minutes. When the timer goes off at the end of those ten minutes, you’re back to work on whatever your project is. And the cycle repeats.

She also suggested I set aside blocks of my day dedicated to various tasks – part of the day for homework, in my case, part of the day for leisure (it’s important that you not neglect your own self-care), part of the day for doing chores, etc. On the days I’m in class, I set aside those days for going to class and learning, and leave the homework to the days I don’t have class. In my case, since I have two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, I would reserve a block of my day for homework on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for instance.

In the end, I decided against the timer, partially because I was planning to modify the 20/10 principle and partially because I didn’t want to pay for an app that I was only going to use a small portion of its features. I simply set alarms on my phone to tell me when to work and when to stop.

The modification that I was planning was to do a 40/20 hourly cycle rather than two 20/10 cycles an hour. I felt like taking a 10 minute break twice an hour didn’t really allow me to do much of anything during that time, but 20 minutes was more workable, and besides, 40 minutes isn’t that long to sit for a session of schoolwork.

I set my alarms for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, reserving Saturday as a day completely off from school, something that I feel is very important to help me maintain my sanity. The alarms start in the 9:00 am hour, take a break during the noontime hour, and finally end for the day at 3:00 pm. Each hour, the alarm to tell me to work goes off at the ten minute mark of the hour, and the alarm to tell me to take a break sounds at the fifty minute mark of every hour. That gives me a break during the last ten minutes of the hour and the first ten minutes of the following hour. I chose this time for a specific reason. Right now Secret World Legends is holding its Halloween event, which includes a repeatable raid that starts at two minutes past every hour. That gives me twelve minutes to stop schoolwork, go to the restroom, refill my drinks and grab a snack, and log into the game, and eight minutes to complete the raid. That’s plenty time time for this mission, as the fight is tough but fast. At the end of each run-through, I check my loot, park my character by the entrance to the raid, and log out to the character select screen. (In SWL the character select screen will remain active indefinitely, but at the end of a 15 minute timer in game your character is automatically logged out and your game client is shut down. It’s infinitely faster to stay on the character select screen than to start up the game client each hour.)

I recognize that right now my workload is very heavy and time-sensitive, since I have a major homework assignment due on Wednesday, and I’d barely gotten started on it, so I added alarms for the 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm hours, and added Saturday to the list of days they sound. And then I waited until today to try out the system and see how it works.

This morning when the first alarm went off at 9:10 am I spent a few minutes setting up the apartment for study time – brought up a Pandora station of quiet instrumental music, refilled my coffee and water, went to the restroom -before starting to study around 9:20. I kept my head down and didn’t check the time at all during that first session, and the alarm to take a break went off before I knew it.

During my break, I left the office we have set up in the second bedroom and came out to my main laptop set up in the kitchen and caught up on conversations that were transpiring while I was studying before logging in to do the hourly raid mission. Before I knew it, the raid was over, and the alarm to get back to work sounded. I dropped everything at that point and went back into the office for another session of homework.

The process continued through the 10:00 and 11:00 am hours. When the alarm for break time went off at 11:50 am, that was my cue to take the next hour off for lunch. This was designed to coincide with my wife’s lunch hours, so I can spend time with her either face to face if she comes home for lunch, or on the phone if she stays at the office. Today she came home and we had a nice, somewhat leisurely lunch together. It wasn’t long before she headed back to the office for the afternoon, and I busied myself with leisure activities from that point until the alarm to send me back into the office sounded.

The afternoon went much as the morning did. Some hours I got a lot done, some not so much at all. But I was making steady forward progress on the daily goal I’d set for myself when I laid out what had to be done and by when. It turned out that I needed both hours I added, plus a few minutes more, to be able to make my goal, but I did it. I’ve spent the rest of the evening spending time with my wife.

This system seems to be working very well. It’s only one day so far, but I felt very productive while following my alarms through the day and I hope that will be the case tomorrow as well.

Before I set this system up, I was starting to panic over all I had left to do. Now that it’s broken up into manageable 40 minute long chunks, it doesn’t seem so hard after all.

Should I have learned this years ago and implemented it much, much sooner? Most likely. There are a lot of areas in my life where something like this could have come in handy. I’m a little put out knowing that it took me to this point in life to learn this pretty basic life skill, but my life has hardly ever worked on the schedule that I expect it to. I’m just glad that I’m learning it this early in my educational career.

Foolish Mistake

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So yesterday I went to my algebra instructor to ask about the problem that basically had me losing a day’s worth of study to slightly irrational thoughts. He gladly welcomed me into his office, and I showed him the problem that I was having. We went through it together, and I couldn’t understand why I was getting the results that I was for this question, so I compared the book to what he’d done. Sure enough, he was getting the right answer, and a quick glance showed me my problem.

I was doing the wrong question and trying to match the correct answer in the back of the book to it. Ahem.

Both classes went well yesterday, and the biology quiz that I hadn’t really studied for was postponed until Monday night, so I have a bit of a reprieve on that. But I still have a ton of algebra homework to do between now and Wednesday morning, and precious little time to actually get it done.

I mapped out a plan for getting it completed in time, but it cost me my weekend plans. I imagine this will not be the last time that school is going to have me cancel things, but I was hoping to avoid it while I’m going half-time.

Today didn’t go so well on the homework front. I was consistently distracted by anything that wasn’t algebra, so I reached out to a friend for some assistance with time management for students. I got some good advice and will be implementing it tomorrow.

It’s going to be a hard few days, but I can handle it. The trick is going to be avoiding  getting this far behind on the next assignment.

Long Day in the Algebra Mines

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Not that much to report today. I slept very poorly last night so once I got my wife off to work I slept until nearly noon to make up for it. The problem with that is that I have a ton of algebra homework that I’ve put off and the deadline is Monday morning, plus I have an SCA event tomorrow, so I effectively have today and Sunday to get things done.

Once I did wake up and ate lunch, I started in on my homework, and kept my head down into that except for a few breaks until after 10:00 tonight. I am all algebra’d out for the day and am really looking forward to collapsing in bed and having a day off tomorrow.

I’m really going to have to work on my time management better if I want to handle a full 12 credits next semester.

Time (Management) Passages

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Today has been an exercise in productive communication and goal-setting.

Once the irrational shouting and jumping to conclusions and feeling sorry for myself was all done, that is.

This morning’s festivities started out with my wife having a conversation with me about one of my interests, and me, like a dolt, didn’t give her my undivided attention. To be fair, both of us are guilty of this at various times – usually we’re competing with the internet for one another’s attention, and that was the case this morning. I happened to scroll past a political cartoon that caused me to laugh out loud, and this understandably frustrated my wife – she’d been having a discussion with me about one of my interests and I very rudely let my attention fall away from her onto something that was relatively trivial. So she very calmly told me that I’d hurt her a little by doing this, and that was my brain’s cue to immediately pile on. I was immediately convinced that I’d utterly pissed her off, that she was exasperated with me, that she was at the end of her rope with putting up with my crap, and then I listened to what she had to say about not taking it personally, not building it up to more than just a piece of information, and I struggled (successfully!) to fight back the irrational thoughts. And then I paid it no further mind.

We moved on to the events of the day. We got a little upside-down in our budget this pay period thanks to some extraneous expenses that we really didn’t have to purchase and some necessary expenses that we forgot to budget for, and so we spent a while disseminating all that we had to do versus what could be put off until we had the money again at the end of the week. This led to a heated conversation about how Sundays tend to be very busy for my wife, since a lot of the chores that have to be done – grocery shopping, laundry, and this week a couple of projects that are competing for oven time – tend to fall on her to do. I vented my frustration that I didn’t feel it was fair that her day be so hectic, when she should be taking it easy on a day off; she countered with “when else am I going to get this stuff done?” It became a bit of a shouting match on both sides.

And then I stopped and asked her “what would be more stressful for you, spreading out your Sunday chores across the week, or having more time for you during the week and having a busy Sunday?” It was the first time that I’d tried to see things from her point of view and not mine, and it changed the conversation entirely. From that point we were civil, we were forthcoming, and we were rational. We decided that she’d start splitting her Sunday chores throughout the week, with Sunday being a fallback for days that get too hectic otherwise, and that I would help where I could.

We also discussed future plans for the laptops – we’re upgrading a drive on each one with the tax return – and so further conversation about the laptops added an ongoing project to her evenings, one I’ll help with where I can.

Not proud of how the conversation and day started, but I am proud of how it ended. We’re both feeling much better now and hope it stays that way for the rest of the night.