I recently completed the backend portion of Launch School. I did this while studying part-time and working a full-time job. As I sit here at the halfway point of my Launch School journey, I want to share some reflections on these past six months along with some tips that may help others as they progress through the core curriculum.
I started the Launch School prep course in July of 2018 and started the paid portion of the core curriculum in August of 2018. I made it about halfway through the first course before having to pause my subscription for nearly seven months. Why did I have to pause my subscription for so long? I was not prepared for the rigors of mastery-based learning while working a full-time job.
After several adjustments to my approach to learning, I came back to Launch School in late April of this year and have progressed much more efficiently than I ever thought. I have done this while working that same full-time job that I had when I was forced to pause my subscription. But my approach has changed quite a bit. That is what I want to share so that it may help someone wanting to excel at Launch School while having to keep a full-time job or simply not being able to study full-time.
The first adjustment I made was to strive for as much stability in my life outside of Launch School as I could possibly manage. While I cannot control many of the circumstances in my life, I knew I had to strive for as much stability at work and in the rest of my life as possible. For example, I have to continually ensure that I am faithful in my current job because it allows me to afford studying at Launch School.
Outside of work, I’ve had to make sacrifices in order to have time to study. This means learning to say “no” to things I might otherwise say “yes” to, while making sure not to overdo it. I have to say “no” to a lot of social invitations, but I have to say “yes” often enough not to become a recluse.
Finding this stability and balance will be different for everyone.
Because I have to study part-time, I cannot put in a ton of hours every day. The temptation is to spend every spare moment possible studying. This is a mistake I made the first time I started Launch School last year. I tried to study during every spare hour I had. But then I overdid it and experienced some pretty serious burnout. Another consequence of trying to put in more hours than I should have was that I started to sacrifice my performance at my job. This led to instability and ultimately pausing my subscription.
When I came back to Launch School this year, I had to find a more sustainable study schedule. With a mastery-based approach, I had to embrace circular learning and not setting time limits. I knew I needed to devote at least 15–10 hours each week to studying the curriculum. I cleared up my weekends which allowed me about 6–10 focused hours.
The challenge came with finding time during the work week. I am often exhausted when I get home from work. I can only get in 1–2 hours at best after work. My only option was to start waking up earlier. I now wake up at 5:30 AM every weekday morning and put in 1–2 hours before work. This has been a huge help as I tend to be very focused in the morning.
I do not always hit these marks and I rarely go beyond them. But over the past six months, I have consistently managed to put in 15–20 focused hours of study each week.
Launch School really drills in the idea of “learning how to learn”. There are many student articles with tips on learning that have been a huge help. I think everyone will have unique study habits that work best for them. You have to find a process of learning and study that works best for you.
In my situation, I had to find an approach to learning that works with the limited hours I am able to devote to studying. This is what has worked for me:
- Pomodoro Technique— I use the Pomodoro technique to study with focus for 25-minute blocks followed by a 5-minute break. This has been a huge help in getting my study hours in. It is also a big help with procrastination. Sometimes I may not feel like studying, but still commit to at least one 25-minute block. I then tend to feel much more motivated to study for another few blocks. This really helps with consistency.
- Question-Based Notes — When I am going through a lesson in the curriculum, I take notes by writing down a question and then providing an answer. This helps me to retain more information than if I had taken notes in a more traditional way like an outline. It forces me to try to retrieve the information from my brain when I review my questions. This also helps when making flashcards for long-term retention. I have also found that because I retain more information the first time through a lesson, I have not had to repeat much of the material in the courses.
- No Rabbit Holes — It is incredibly tempting to follow rabbit holes when going through the curriculum. I am rather obsessive when it comes to learning a new subject. I want to know everything about everything. But with a full-time job and limited study time, I have to be disciplined in sticking to the curriculum. This might be different if I was studying full-time. However, this is another sacrifice that has to be made. I trust that Launch School is truly teaching me everything I need to know when it comes to fundamentals.
Launch School is a demanding curriculum. It takes consistency, dedication, and a studious approach. But that should not scare anyone away who can only study part-time. It is totally realistic to study part-time and make good progress. I hope what I have shared is helpful in your own journey.