College life triangle

Add internship to that and you are screwed, right? I am a student and an intern too, but I don’t think so.

Driven by ambition, adrenaline and that quote from my favorite movie, I applied for an internship, got accepted, got attached and suddenly college was right around the corner. Thinking that the odds are in my favor, I decided to juggle. Now all I need are a couple of tips and tricks to tackle this, or so I thought.

There is no set of rules that truly helped.  It was more about the ups and downs that I saw happening to me and to the interns I followed around and bombarded with questions to bring this article to life.

After a lot of research, experimentation, a bit of getting in the way of working interns and being an intern myself, I was submerged in the experience from every possible angle.

The one thing all experiences have in common is that there are stages to everything a beginning, a middle and an end. And to truly survive this internship/study endeavor I needed to learn how to get through each of these stages.

The beginning: Run, Forrest, Run!

The finish line is gratifying. But the start line, it’s invigorating. Time and energy are on your side, and this mere fact can play all sort of tricks on your mind. I started thinking I could do it all, I got this far, I am up for it and I found myself instinctively hanging onto a set of premature decisions:

  1.     Take on extra tasks at work, “I am here to prove myself after all”
  2.     Skip the first week or two of college “Most successful entrepreneurs didn’t go to college anyway”
  3.     Do it all alone “Because the only person I can rely on is me”

If the points above resonate or you agree with any of these patriarchal quotes, please stop. Following your instinct is a very slippery slope and at the initial stages is usually where you slip. There’s a time for everything and the beginning line is not where you want all your energy depleted. That’s why you should put on the training wheels before you try adopting any specific workflow.

The beginning re-imagined: The training wheels

The adrenaline pumping in my blood was telling me that beginnings should be exciting. But in all truth, the beginning was more about building stamina. Remember those boring chores the karate kid had to do as part of his training. This will be you for a while, except it’s not going to be boring, just slower than you would like it to be.

Understand your rhythm

On the bus, while making coffee, waiting for my friends to arrive, in the office. These were some of the times and places at which I worked on this article. That’s what the life of a student with an internship could look like. I have my reasons for choosing this specific workflow, do you know yours? After so many trials and errors I now understand a lot about myself and about what is the most efficient way to do things, for me at least.

During this stage, you should focus on being productive with the least amount of effort possible. However, what’s comfortable can’t always be what’s productive, learn about what fits you better yet doesn’t draw on your resources. The road to knowing which approach fits you can seem like an unapproachable task, but a few brain-teasers can help guide you in the right direction.

Do

Find the least-effort way to help you be productive at both University and internship.

Don't

Overwork yourself to the stage you feel burnout.

Figure out if you’re a juggler or a jumper

Nouran is a WUZZUF intern & a friend who has stationed only two desks away and even though we seem to have a lot in common. When it comes to working outside of the office, she likes to have a scheduled time for it. Unlike me, I like the bursts of work in-between life events which doesn’t work for her. I choose to juggle more than one thing at a time, she chooses to jump from one task to another. In the end, we both seem to make it work.

Are you the kind of person who can handle going to university then going to work afterward? Or do you need a separate day for each? This is not about what you can or can’t do, we can all do both. it’s about what you can sustain long-term. Being able to work on a moving bus or a crowded restaurant can affect your decisions on juggling.

Do

Find some way that fits your pace, that you are comfortable in and helps you be productive.

Don't

Step into a pattern, just because it is adopted by someone you consider successful.

Embrace your chronotype

Do you work best in the early morning, afternoon, or late at night? Are you more creative at a certain time in the day? Or let me phrase it this way, the age-old question, are you an early bird or night owl?

Your chronotype is your inclination to a specific sleep pattern. Use this to your advantage by scheduling your bursts of intense work around the convenient time for you. Don’t take a chunk of your energy trying to change your night owl preferences just so you can wake up early and be unproductive, uninspired and start to dread the whole cycle. Listen to your body and do things in a way that doesn’t require you to burn off any extra energy. I used to jump at the chance of changing all my preferences as I thought it will be productive, but I came to the conclusion that working on your own version of productivity can make it a lot easier.

Do

Listen to your body, and understand its sleeping and energy patterns. Work around them.

Don't

Try to change your chronotype, just to match the general norm.

How to snooze & NOT lose

Messy, clean, colorful or plain we all have our preferences. But when it comes to work, your environment can be a vehicle for so much more than self-expression and inspiration. It should also be efficient.

If you always seem to wake up late and hustle to get ready before you miss your ride. Then maybe keep an organized desk where you can find things with ease. Think of it this way if I want to snooze the clock for an extra ten minutes then I would have to make up for that lost time somehow. Whether it’s keeping your environment clean so you can find things quickly or having your outfit planned out from the day before.

Space and time are connected in physics and in our current situation as well. The more time you need the more you have to keep a certain type of environment. Keeping things organized so that I wouldn’t have to exert any extra brain effort to reach something as simple as a file on my computer can help more than you think. So if you want to maintain being a bit tardy, balance out the chaos by keep it organized in another aspect of your life.

Do

Use your environment as a way to manage your time.

Don't

Think that not being able to overcome certain habits mean you can't find your way around them.

Know when & what to skip

Something that was common between all the interns I talked to including myself was that we all keep a very close eye on time. Even the ones who wouldn’t call themselves organized had to-do lists & self-imposed deadlines. Time is a resource you can’t quite stretch so keep track of it as much as possible. Keep a list of any vacations, holidays, exams, deadlines and all important dates that will either have an intense workflow or no workflow at all. These periods are where you need to monitor yourself. Skipping can turn into a habit, so keep an eye on it. You can skip but only if you manage to come out with the least amount of collateral damage.

At university skip right before you need to deliver a big project at work. We all milked the fact that we are hybrids, half interns half students, to our advantage when talking to our professors about attendance and leniency. When you go an extra mile you deserve to reap some benefits.

You end up with no attendance predicament, a lecture that you can catch up on later with the help of a friend and you focus more on the important work assignment you had to deliver. See? least collateral possible.

Do

Only skip when you can get away with the least amount of collateral damage.

Don't

Adopt skipping as a habit

Find your anchors

From your family to your school friends, college friends and now work colleagues; not all of them will understand your situation. When it comes to adding another element into your life, some conflicts will arise.

My parents started bringing up my university more often, with subtle jabs at the internship that’s consuming all my time. My friends complain about not seeing me more often and the road to building a future for myself suddenly felt so lonely.

I made the mistakes of engaging in these conflicts early on, making my internship a sore subject that is linked with anger and frustration. No matter what you do, don’t give up on having a support system. In the initial stages, learn to give the people around you time to adapt to your new schedule. Don’t engage in any conflicts about them not supporting you, give them time. It’s okay for the people around you to have other priorities and points of view different from yours. You don’t really have to change their outlook you only need their support. Statements like “it’s my life and I know what I am doing” won’t really help them understand where you are coming from. Always remember that it’s not about getting them on the same page as you but only about getting them to accept what page you are on.

Do

"I understand that you are concerned, I believe I can do it. Now I need your support so I can achieve what I want"

Don't

"It is my life, I know what I am doing."

Despite it being a bit slow, the beginning will be more essential than you can imagine. Think of it as if you’re programming your body & mind to undergo an upcoming challenge. And now that you are done with the training, are you ready for the fight?

Don’t worry we still got you covered, continue the journey & wait for our next article next Sunday for part two.

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