Balancing Work, Life and Academics

This blog is written by Sudhiranjan Jena, he is a student of the Big Data Engineering Program of UpGrad, in association with BITS Pilani. He is an IT professional with more than 20 years of experience and efficiently balancing his work, life and academics.
Every day we are struggling to balance between work and personal life. Deadlines to meet, codes to complete, testing for the new releases, proposals for the new project, estimations, SQA reviews, etc. on the professional front. Parent-teacher meeting at children’s school, shopping with (guess who?), family outing and many more …on the domestic front.
Yet, many of us add one more dimension to this already complex equation when we enrol for some online course alongside our job. So, where do we go from here? Not that I am an expert in balancing my life. Thought of sharing few tips which helped me to overcome this situation and could help others also.

FACT: Most of us enrol for an online program with only one thought, that it is going to add value to our professional career. And, it is not a cake walk (focused effort is required). Bottom line – we should never think of leaving the program midway after investing substantial effort and $$$.

So how do we tackle this issue?

Budget Time:

Consider this as part of your profession. Like every other activity in professional work, time needs to be budgeted for this activity also. Trust me, it is not going to take more than 1 – 2 hours a day if properly planned. Ok, then when? Early morning, late night, between breaks whatever suits you. It may not be continuous 1 – 2 hours.
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Start early:

Start on the day a module is published. Do not postpone to weekend or some other day. It is not necessary that you have to complete the whole module in one go.


Plan your week. Each module is broken down into sessions and topics. Target one session or few topics in the session for each day of the week. Most important of all, stick to the plan.

Take notes:

When you go through a topic, take notes of all important aspects. Write the notes in a notebook, do not type it. When we type, our attention is on the keyboard, words, sentences, and punctuation. But, when we write, the brain is engaged in analysing the context.
There is another advantage of taking notes. Suppose, you got some time before lunch at work and completed few topics of a session. Then in the evening before leaving office you have some time to complete few more topics. But, by then you have lost the context of the topics you covered in the morning. Most likely to happen throughout the day you are deeply engrossed in office work. The notes come handy here. Give a quick glance at your notes before starting the new topics.

Preparing for Exams:

We all are working professionals, we will not get preparatory holidays for the exams. Out of the 2 hours budgeted for each day, spend 30 minutes going through the Q&A posted in the Discussion Forum. Consider this as your efforts towards revising the topics. If possible answer few questions. In the process, you will again refer to your notes or other material on the web. By this, you will help others and at the same time also help yourself. This point, in particular, has helped me a lot.
Now the only other thing left is assignments, particularly the ones where programming is involved. It has been observed that additional time is given in the modules where assignments are required. Few, points in this regard.
Do not start the assignments before completing all the sessions/topics. You will end up posting too many questions on the online forums. I have bothered a lot of my peers and learned it the hard way.
Assignments cannot be done in short bursts of 1 or 2 hours. You have to plan for at least 4 continuous hour slots. It may not be feasible to accommodate this on weekdays. Try doing it on weekends. Spend weekdays for clarifying doubts or getting help from peers on issues faced.
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Plan the assignments as you plan short duration projects in professional life. Come up with the solution outline before you start on the actual coding. Budget time for coding, testing, and documentation.
We all are in the pursuit of excellence, so, if you have some other suggestions that worked well for you, please do share in comments.

What difficulties can be faced while doing an online course?

Online learning is not without its difficulties. One such difficulty is predicting the learning experience and how well it will go. A lot of the online courses can get difficult because students are often overwhelmed with the amount of information they have to absorb along with doing their office work. If it is possible to manage the difficulties, then online courses are one of the best ways to learn. They provide flexibility in scheduling and personalizing your learning which is really helpful for the employees taking up such courses.

What is the best way to make notes?

One of the best ways to make notes while studying is by using a notebook and pen rather than on laptops. Also, it is better to take notes in short paragraphs, as it makes it easier to go back and read them when studying. Notes in an online course should be taken at the time of lecture as it is important to write down the tips and tricks shared by the instructor. This allows you to fully understand the material being taught and will help you recall the information when you need to answer questions or revise for a test. It is also convenient to keep track of the concepts being taught.

What is the need of pursuing a course after getting a job?

Having a job does not mean that pursuing a degree or further study is unnecessary. Taking up an online course is a way to ensure that you continue to learn and grow professionally after getting a full-time job. These courses can be very helpful for keeping your skills sharp and learning something new. There are a number of benefits of doing an online course after getting a job, including the ability to work at your own pace, the flexibility of the online learning format, and the fact that you can now take an online course at any time, on any day of the week.

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