I called you to highlight to you the realistic amount of hours we can spend on self-study.
Real example 1 —- I monitored it for months in my Master’s program — I would spend about 30 hours a week, including lectures, tutorial classes and homework(about 15-30 Hr/week, often taking up one full weekend-day). If I self-study without the program, I think it will drop to 3 hours a week. Why so low? Read on.
Eg 2 —- Some graduate students prepare for coding interviews by going through some question bank, just as you planned. Could be close to a hundred questions, during a 3M period — just my imagination, not based on any observation. They probably have 4 hours/weekday + 16 hours/weekend-day of free time. How many hours do they actually spend ? I would guess 10 – 20 hours a week. Why so low? Read on
Real example 3 —- In Singapore, I had kids, bills, grocery, household chores, home maintenance, family outing … so I had far less spare time than now, but still I probably had 1H/weekday + 8H/WED (weekend-day) for myself. In reality, I averaged 3 hours a week on self-study, but you know what a motivated person I am. Why so low? Read on
Real example 4 —- in Feb 2018 I had some very promising, valuable interview opportunities (FB). Even on the very last weekend before the interview, my time utilization rate was very very low. I lock myself up in office with no one else to distract me. I sleep only 7 hours and I eat in front my computer. In fact, I tell my friends “I spent entire weekend in office without going out of the building. You would think I could spend 15 hours a day on the preparation. Well, more like 6. Why so low?
It’s not all about motivation. I had high motivation in Singapore. I had the highest motivation over the recent weekend. But the numbers are still much lower than “theoretical limits”. There’s huge difference between wall-clock time vs real time spent:
Example 5 —- My son would spend an hour pretending to study 20 Chinese characters but only learn 3 characters and soon forget all of them. So the real time he spent was … a few minutes?
It’s about intensity. I call it
laser energy intensity.
Real example 6 —- in a coding interview, my mind was working at top capacity. Over 15 minutes I solved some very tough problem. The rest of the interview (I was there for 3 hours) was far less intense, though it’s still intense, as intense as any technical interview.
Example 4 continued —- I time myself for white-board coding. Over 20 minutes my mind was working under immense pressure. Over the next 2 hours I sit down at a computer and make the actual code work. It’s still a lot of work, but my mind was at 50% peak capacity.
Use numbers to gauge the amount of workload and your time utilization rate. Say each problem (in homework or a coding exercise) takes average 30 minutes in exam / interview. Beside eating, using toilet, you have 15 hours to spend, so you would want to do 30 problems. How many can you actually complete? Perhaps 6, up to 10. Why so low? Our mind can’t operate at peak capacity for 15 hours!
In Example 4, after I spend 20 intense minutes, I need to wind down. After I spend 2 hours on lower-intensity work, I also need to wind down.
In Example 1, at the lecture/tutorial classes, the intensity was about 30% on average. That’s why I can do 2-3 hours. At a higher intensity the students’ mind would /disengage/ after an hour. All experienced teachers would slow down and give breaks when introducing tough technical topics.
In Example 1, When I spent 10 hours to complete my homework, my intensity was about 50% and I took many breaks. Actually the concentration time spent was more like 6-7 hours.
How does this mental “workload” compare to paid project work in a regular job, including work-from-home?
- 😦 Project work is often repetitive or mundane. I can’t choose another topic.
- 🙂 Paid work often has much bigger impact (otherwise why paid) and often a sense of achievement
- 😦 Paid work stress is harmful, since the impact is high.
- 🙂 Project work often has a discipline built-in, so we don’t wander off. This is similar to my Master’s program
- 🙂 Project work requires us to keep going when the going gets tough. Also in my Master’s program