Illustration by Jennifer Ober

School can be fun, but sometimes the work is a pain. It takes up a large portion of your time and requires near constant attention. This is for your benefit, however, getting locked into school work can make it difficult to focus on side projects and personal work.

There is never enough time to get everything done in a single day, but it is important to make the time to work on personal projects even while working, or at school. You want to be able to sharpen your skills on your own time and have a portfolio of work you can rely on once school is over.

You don’t want to wait until after you graduate to start building a portfolio of work outside of class. At that point, you will be playing catch up and figuring out how to keep yourself afloat while multitasking.

The idea is to utilize time you have now to avoid elongating the process of getting to your ultimate goal in the future. If you have a solid portfolio you are comfortable with by the time you leave school, it may assist you in securing work in your chosen field sooner rather than later.

Another benefit is what you learn in class will be practiced and utilized in real time as you learn it. The extra practice will also cause a reciprocal benefit to your performance in class. You will learn things that you might not have stumbled upon before and then use that to your advantage.

The real difficulty is finding the extra time amidst the chaos of daily life. One technique is to ruminate as you multitask. If you work a job where you do something repetitive that allows for idle thought, then spend that time developing your ideas instead of daydreaming about quitting your job.

If you commute to work and school through public transportation then bring any supplies you need and chip away at it there. Or, spend half an hour before bed every night or get up an hour or two before you need to leave the house. Every moment you can take back and reallocate to practice on side projects will be well spent.

Despite the benefits, it is important to remember you don’t want to overexert yourself. Don’t obsess over not accomplishing enough personal work, and don’t beat yourself up in the process. Think of it as a favor you are doing for the future you. Remember that balance is key. It is a matter of finding the discipline to make the appropriate time to work on your personal projects without going overboard.

There is no doubt that extra time and effort spent towards getting better at your craft is never a bad thing. Just remember to focus on striking a healthy balance and using your time wisely.