Surviving The 24 Hour Day

So, this is one-half rant, one-half advice solicitation. [EDIT: I lied; the rant is actually significantly longer than the solicitation for advice.]The long and short of it is, I’m exhausted, and I don’t have the time that I need to accomplish the things that I need to accomplish.

Personal background: I’m working while trying to attend school. On no planet (or actually, on this planet, maybe, just not this country) can I afford school without students loans and grants, but work still makes up a significant shortfall in my finances. In other words, I cannot simply decide not to work. I’ve reduced my hours to as low as they can go before I basically don’t work there, but it does hurt the pocketbook and may not be sustainable long term. Meanwhile I’m attempting 15 credit hours. This ideally translates to 45 hours of work for school, a week. Added to my work obligations for a recent week and transit times that brings me to a total of 5 hours free per day to do other things-- if I’m averaging four hours of sleep a night.

What I’m finding is that I’m being slowly, gradually, crushed beneath the weight of it all. I’m keeping up with things so far, but barely. It’s not like my program isn’t challenging, either. The problem is that I don’t have enough time in which to get things done. I’ve pretty much been working (school work or monetary work) non-stop for three weeks. I’m averaging four hours of sleep a night, with much of that being one or two hours added up to full nights’ sleep to get the average. I’m eating terribly, I get very little social time (at this point, it’s limited to what I say here and mumbling goodnight to housemates on the way to bed.)

I count every minute and live and die by the clock. five minutes during lunch is enough to complete the end of this or that assignment, fifteen minute breaks at work are good for completing a book problem if someone doesn’t try to talk to me. I’ve taken to memorizing homework problems so I can try working them out in my head at work to save time. I have video games, hobbies, friends: None of which I’m engaging with. I admit to falling prey to procrastination from time to time, but this has not been issue. I’ve literally, almost counter-intuitively been too busy to put things off.

All of this is incredibly maddening. Tonight, I’m basically just using this time that I really can’t spare to gripe, because it’s probably going to keep me sane. I need sanity more than I need that time.

My Question Is: How do people do this? I’ve long ago given up the ghost of the idea that I’m a special person whose problems are unique. I know I’m not the only person who works and goes to school simultaneously. I also know, discouragingly, that I’m statistically disadvantaged, and starting to see why. I’m literally too exhausted to explain why I find that genuinely funny enough to set off maniacal laughter on my part.

So, to reiterate: How do people find the time and money to do this? In genuinely have no clue. My parents aren’t an option. In many respects, my situation could be a lot worse. At least I’m not homeless.


Well, I’m married to someone whose career was already set - so it’s been a slog, but not what you’re having to deal with. My husband did something similar to what you’re doing… getting very little sleep, taking out loans, and working 3 jobs, I think it was to cover it all, plus a full load of classes (he finished early, too). But he was young and stubborn.

It seems to me that the best option here might be to cut back on credit hours, if that’s at all possible. Unless you can’t because of loans/grant that might give you a bit more breathing time. You might need to take more time to complete the BA (I assume you’re getting a BA? Or is this a grad degree?), but it isn’t really worth your health to get out in 4 years. if it takes 5, so be it.

Or porn. You could do porn. Or phone sex lines.


You have my sympathy.

I took three years to do my Masters part time (well, actually six, because I put the final year on hold for a few years when I first moved to the USA.

I found it tremendously hard - during the school year I barely had an evening/weekend off for two years (although I did get the summers off). The final year really took up all my time. Put a lot of strain on us as we were recently married and moving backwards and forwards across the Atlantic during it.

I was lucky that it was a company funded degree though, so at least I didn’t have to worry about that, although I did have to combine it with a full-time job.


Throughout most of the last century, advice columnist Ann Landers had a go-to response for anyone who wrote in wondering if they should leave their substandard/lazy/abusive/malodorous/philandering/skinflint/spendthrift/ne’er-do-well Significant Other. She always asked the writer to take a long, hard look at themselves and the relationship, and to honestly answer the question, “Am I better off with or without this person?”

Lots of people will gladly offer an opinion on such matters, but only you have any real concept of just how much you can take. Some people thrive on pressure. Some people skate by with minimal sleep. Some people have boundless energy. Some people seem to have all the luck. Some people have an iron constitution, tanned-rhino-leather skin, a flinty disposition, and tempered steel in their soul. Most of us lack some or all of those qualities, which is no real detriment to the quality of our character as a whole.

You may have bitten off more than you can chew, and there’s no shame at all in recognizing that possibility, analyzing its likelihood, and taking steps to remedy the situation. 15 credit hours is more than full-time, so if you can reduce that load, you maybe should, not only to preserve your health and sanity, but also to preserve the high quality of your work.

Some can, some can’t. No matter what I ever resolved to do, I never in my life could have run a four-minute mile. That doesn’t mean I’m bad at running; I’m just not amazing at it. And make no mistake: people who can pull off 15 credit hours and a work schedule that permits a small handful of sleep hours a night without falling flat on their faces are amazing. They’re not necessarily the best people to hang out with at parties or have long philosophical discussions with on fishing trips (though some of them are quite talented musicians, somehow), and more than a few have overexcelled themselves into early graves, but holy shit are they amazing corpses.

This doesn’t have to be the thing you’re amazing at.

So be honest with yourself: do you really need to be killing yourself with this workload? Would your quality of life (and quality of work) be greatly helped by a more measured pace? When all is said and done, when you finally reach the light at the end of the tunnel, will you be genuinely better off having lived through this… or not?

There’s no secret recipe to success. You bust ass the best way you can, identifying ways to streamline and improve, minimizing therbligs (both physical and intellectual/emotional–always remembering how Lazarus Long put it: “Minimize your therbligs until it becomes automatic; this doubles your effective lifetime — and thereby gives time to enjoy butterflies and kittens and rainbows”) and remembering to enjoy the enjoyable moments as they happen, not just in retrospect when you finally lay this burden down. Only you know how much you can take, and you’re not answerable to anyone else but you at this point.

Remember that Unbroken movie that came out last year, about Louie Zamperini, the USC track star and Olympian who was shot down over the Pacific in WWII, survived a month and a half adrift on a liferaft, was “rescued” by the Japanese, and spent two years in a POW camp until the war ended? In the movie at least, he had a mantra that he spoke while running track and while being tortured as a POW: “If I can take it, I can make it.” As a movie tagline it ain’t so hot, but it’s applicable to such situations as yours. If you can take it, you can make it. So it’s incumbent upon you to make sure that the amount of stress you absorb in your day-to-day life is something you can take without cracking.

If it exceeds that amount, then you gotta change something before matters get unbearable.


How much longer is the study? It the end in sight?
Can you drop a subject? Stretch out the study an extra year?


Dear Donald,
BBS needs a Dear Donald topic. Would that be in ‘dizzy’, ‘wrath’, or ‘games’?


I’m working on my chem BS, which is pretty much required for grad school. I’m out at the end of spring 2017 as opposed to fall 2017. But part of the problem is the integer math and how that lines up with my options. I can’t take the financial hit of doing less than 12 credit hours because it changes my funding. I also cannot find courses that add up to 12CH (at least this semester). I can’t remember why, I did that math months ago, at the time it seemed unavoidable. I’m also trying to minimize later debt, I figure an ounce of pain now to avoid a pound later is worth it.

And no, no I couldn’t. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Despite my bellyaching, I’m starting to wonder if I’m this person. (I’m in a much better mood, having just woken up. I wrote that at the end of a 17-hour day.) I was in a much less challenging program once upon a time years ago. I know this, because I still have the notes, and I can compare them against what I’m doing now. Based on my experience, I’ve learned that anyone who tells you it doesn’t matter which school you attend may well be very wrong. Honestly, I was bored at my previous program. I found it too easy. This one is forcing me to step up my game in whole new ways, and it is in fact forcing me to develop skills I never had.I never used to keep a planner, I never used to organize my notes, and I never worked late into the night except due to my own procrastination. So I can’t pretend I’m not getting anything out of it. I was in a lab learning new techniques while people were drinking and swearing at Donald Trump. While I see the appeal of the latter, I admit to vastly preferring the former.

Didn’t see that movie, or the poster. But it’s weird, I’ve basically echoed that sentiment in the even-worse tagline of “I’ll fake it till I make it.” Meaning, I will DO ALL THE THINGS people who are competent do, even if I do them wrong, until I do them right. I figure half the battle is showing up, and at least I do that.

I dunno how you did it, @Donald_Petersen, but you’ve somehow given me sound advice… without really advising me at all. Thank you.


Call games master @othermichael… or just set it up, cause that’s a kick ass idea!

Maybe you just needed a sounding board as the answer was inside you all along?

Good luck!!!


Cheat, its that simple.

Let me rephrase.

Ask for a loan from every friend, family member, or acquaintance. Explain you are going to them because of fucked up student loan bs. and they will be laid back in 2018.

Don’t work for A’s. Do the minimum to understand, internalize, and when appropriate memorize (which is rarely appropriate).

Ask. For. Help. Exactly like you are doing here. Trade low energy/time things you have for higher value things other people have. I.e. trade half an hour of tutoring a roommate for house chores.

Or,ya know, do what I did. (Don’t ask (don’t ask (why are you asking)))

There’s a magic secret (use the games category) that I will never reveal! Mwah-hah-hah-hah!

He already said no to porn, and you’re advocating prostitution sex work?

Yech. I have a half-completed MS (Software Engineering). I took a semester off when my first son was born, then signed up for classes, then accepted a job in CT the next day, and it’s been a whirlwind of 2 more kids and no more money ever since.

15 CH + work sounds untenable, but if you can make it – work soooooo hard at getting only 12 in the future. Talk to the dept. head, talk to administration – sometimes there can be special classes to get you to the 12 CH you need for funding, without going over.

Pace yourself.


Mavis Beacon, where are you!!??

All that sounds like really good advice. I would only add that not many of my college friends graduated in four. Be gentler with yourself, because you’re hard to replace.


YMMV (and all that), but here’s how I did something (somewhat) similar:

I prioritized all my school work- so I’d do the readings that were DIRECTLY being worked with, de-prioritized any other readings (and forget the “optional” crap entirely). Figure out the parts of the workload that actually matter, and focus on killing those.
2. Shock-and-awe the instructors. This, my friend, may be my best advice ever. And here’s what you do: at the start of a semester, you read every goddamn thing they put near you. You raise your hand to every question asked (regardless of if you know the answer). You offer comments. You highlight connections. You visit during office hours. You send papers early for review before submission. You. Crush. Everything. And you do all this for three weeks. At some point, the instructor will get sick of you dominating the class. You’ll raise your hand to answer, and they’ll say “Yes, japhroaig, I know you know the answer. Somebody else, maybe?” And that’s your hint to take your foot off the gas. From that point forward, the amount of flexibility you’ll have will be shocking. Extensions granted. Gentle grading. Preferential treatment. The good stuff.

And that’s it, really. I’ve actually got those two bits in the wrong order, I suppose- start with shock and awe, and then do #1, and you’ll find you (should) have breathing room.


So much this. Heck I am still surprised I got the A in advanced calcuseless as after the first few weeks I skipped most Wednesdays as literally half the class time was going over the previous class.
Unless you end up doing this stuff for a day job you are not going to remember any of it but you will remember and use the logic and thinking skills from the classes.

Also see if there are jobs on campus. My future in IT support was cemented when I decided to apply to be a computing lab monitor/helpdesk person and since I got the evening shift it worked out well for sticking about on campus to study before work and was never always busy so I had time to study while on the clock.


Literally just reminded me of this:

Also, Google Image Searching “it was inside you all along along” to find it yielded at least one disturbing result, Probably SFW, but still… disturbing.

Family is… a complicated subject. Suffice it to say that there is a reason the last time I spoke with any family corresponds temporally with the end of a very dark period in my life. I’m limited to friends who genuinely have enough trouble of their own making ends meet. I’ve considered drawing money through my blog, which despite the facts that I have precious little time to update it, still nets offers from advertisers through email (for crap so utterly unrelated to the content of the blog that I it compromises the integrity.) I’d much rather spend the hours doing that than work at my current job. Today I literally spent an hour moving heavy desk chairs in stock and after moving a particularly heavy “executive chair” I spotted the tagline after sliding it into place, “Experience a new way to work.” I was literally taunted by an inanimate object.

You didn’t go to school, didn’t you? (I’m asking.(Seriously.))

I’m already not graduating in four. I flunked out the first time, so I’m not starting from scratch. My incentives run along the lines of,

A.) You’re not getting any richer.
B.) You’re not getting any younger.

B wouldn’t bother me one bit, except that my chosen field has a lot of people in it who believe that you’re pretty much cooked after thirty. People who would be looking at my resume.

Oh my god, I’m that guy. I’m waiting for the instructor to throw something at me. They always know my name early on. Best rule I’ve ever learned: Sit in the front. That way you can’t see people’s faces and it makes you unafraid of them thinking you’re a jackass when you answer a question wrong.

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Full scholarship for Classical Clarinet Performance. Dropped out after a year.


Never assume that, when in school, you know what is fulfilling later in life. Never be afraid of changing course.


Thanks for that, I’m in the middle of a course change that…well I wasn’t ready for it. But it must be. I can’t not do it.


I don’t think he’s a middle aged mother. Maybe he could be a merman though?

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