Time Management 101 for Data Science Dummies

You look at your schedule and think to yourself, “Hmm, that programming assignment looks easy. I’ll do it the day before it’s due.” 

Don’t do that. That’s how it gets you. Programs put on a face of innocence only to take a toll of several tedious hours of coding.

Brian Freeman, a fellow data science (DS) major, agrees. When I interviewed him this week, he said, “It doesn’t matter how proficient you are in programming or working through proofs. You will get stuck with no idea why,” and I know that feeling all too well. For DS majors, the concept of time gets thrown out the window. You’ll start a problem at 9 pm, and before you know it, the sun’s peeking through the window. Time management is ridiculously important.

Brian Freeman – sophomore data science major

Brian is my go-to DS student and when I asked, he provided an outlook of his daily schedule. I realized that his structure would benefit not only me, but all of us in this major alike. It’s easy to picture and goes something like this:

  1. Between 9:00-10:30 in the morning, he does easy homework to get into a productive mindset
  2. For an hour after that, he exercises
  3. Around noonish, it’s lunchtime
  4. After eating, it’s straight to the robotics club room
  5. He takes his Zoom classes in the room to stay involved in robotics discussions
  6. Promptly at 5:30, he’ll get dinner
  7. In between classes and eating, he practices driving the robot and works on customizing its code
  8. Usually, after 6:30 or so, he’ll head home to do the rest of his homework

Brian’s schedule is a good model because classes and homework are evenly distributed throughout the day. He admits that doing one task for a long time can be mentally draining, so setting up times to wake up, eat, and sleep provides a rigid framework. The gaps in that framework get filled with extracurricular activities and personal time.

This correlates to another one of Brian’s genius tidbits. “The day before, I usually come up with a rough outline of what I want to do during the day.” This will help put your work and available time into perspective, which we all need to efficiently and effectively complete tasks and stay ahead. The next day will feel less daunting, preparing you mentally to be productive.

Dr. James Rauff, one of our professors, suggested similar practices when I asked him for advice earlier this week. “Start as soon as an assignment is given and take lots of breaks,” he says, “Spread it out. Have a ‘coding’ period in your calendar specifically for that.” 

Dr. James Rauff – professor of mathematics and computer science

In essence, planning and organization are what will keep us on track without lagging. I struggle with this a lot, and so hearing the same thing from my peer and my professor helped me figure out what I had to do.

Take it from me – don’t procrastinate that program, or it’ll haunt you. I hope Brian and Dr. Rauff’s valuable insight motivate you as much as it did me. Let’s get our lives back together, one bit at a time.

– Bushra Ibrahim

Bushra is a sophomore data science and computer science double major at Millikin University. With creative hobbies such as drawing, painting, and writing and more technical interests in mathematics, computer languages, and technology, she chose to follow an academic path that could entertain both. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are areas in which she hopes to build a career.

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