Josh Vickerson is a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he is completing his B.S. in Information Technology. Josh has worked as a Software Engineer for Brand Networks, and is Vice President and co-founder of Localhost at RIT. He hopes to continue his career as a web developer, working on products that improve the lives of others.
It’s no secret college is getting more and more expensive.
As many as 71% of undergraduate students work part time, or even full time, to cope with this reality. Over half of those students work 20 hours or more a week. The time commitment alone is significant, but those of us working more than one job face an additional burden: changing contexts.
Last fall, I held three different jobs on campus totaling 25 hours a week. While that sounds like a lot, the time commitment wasn’t the most difficult thing to handle. Solid time management skills can make working 25 hours a week pretty routine. The more difficult challenge holding three jobs is wearing so many hats without feeling overwhelmed.
Each job presented its’ own unique routines and requires working in a different context. Exercising so many different ways of thinking can be exhausting. The best way I found to cope seems counter-intuitive: take frequent breaks.
As a freshman, I thought I should work nonstop whenever I wasn’t busy. I made it through, but man was I stressed out. Now in my senior year, I’ve learned that’s nothing more than a fast track to burn out.
I’ve since embraced my own limitations and increased my productivity by taking breaks. Each break acts as a mental reset, allowing me to tackle the next thing with a fresh mind. This is the same reason the popular Pomodoro technique works. Learning to get over the guilt of taking a break wasn’t easy, but it’s helped a lot.
Between classes, three jobs and homework, what do breaks look like? Often they’re simple, like listening to music between classes or as I walk to work. Sometimes they’re, ironically, more commitments, like joining a club for fun or working on a side project. But more often it’s grabbing lunch with a friend instead of working through lunch. It’s spending an evening playing video games, or any other activity that isn’t work. College is hard work, but there has to be room for fun too.
Now if I could just learn to fight multitasking and single-task my way through every day I’d be a productivity machine. But that’s an entirely different challenge.