Zach Bloomquist

A semester in retrospect

As my third-to-last semester at Georgia Tech starts to wrap up, I’m left with some time to myself to reflect on what I’ve done over the last few months.

Work-Life Balance

This semester, I took 16 credit-hours of upper level classes and worked 20 hours part-time a week at my internship with GE Digital. Since September, I’ve been in a 24-hour cycle of wake up, go to class, go to work, go to class, go to sleep. The weekends consisted of 1. catching up on sleep and 2. catching up on homework. So, with few exceptions, it’s been non-stop work for me. I’m young, I can take it.

The benefit to this sort of lifestyle is that my skills were constantly being expanded every day. I’d go to class, learn something new. Go to work, learn something new. But the downside is that I only was able to learn the things presented to me in class or assigned to me at work. I had no time for personal improvement, no time to start new personal projects.

I’m used to having spare time to explore my interests. This is how I got into computer science in the first time - in my spare time in grade school, I’d be reading books about Active Server Pages (yuck) and HTML4, planning out code on notebook paper, and waiting for my fleeting moments where my parents would allow me on the computer to learn even more on the Internet. I’ve been doing variations of that for the last ten years of my life. Now that I don’t have the ability to choose what I’m learning, I found it difficult to focus on the same things, day in and day out, for 18 weeks straight.

Dealing With (or Running From) Burn-Out

burn-out (noun): physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress

I had a naive thought early into the semester. On August 31st, I said to myself, “I’m taking 16 credit hours this semester and I’m already feeling stressed out but I think after a couple of weeks I’ll be reacclimated to it.”

I then proceeded to have the same thought about halfway through every week - “Okay, this is stressful, but it should be over after this week!”

Turns out I was tricking myself every week, which lead to decreased motivation and burn-out as the semester wore on. It wasn’t useful to tell myself that I’d have no work left over and over again. I ended up being even more stressed because I kept having to deal with the disappointment of not being “done” with my work.

I guess the lesson I learned is that you should never look forward to being “done” because the work in life is never-ending. Instead of working like a dog every day in the pursuit of being “done”, I should have set reasonable goals for myself and allowed myself some small breaks between objectives. That would have been much less stressful.

Moving Forward

This semester has convinced me that I need to put more work into planning my life. Just taking things as they come led to a stressful stretch of life for the last few months.

My current internship ended this November so now I am on the hunt for a new one. In the mean time, I have started a small Bitcoin consulting company with some friends from Georgia State. It’s called BitCraft and we’re actively pursuing some clients already. Now that I’m freed up from GE, I can devote time to this.

I’ll still be taking 16 credit hours at Georgia Tech; however, I don’t think that they will be as stressful as the 16 hours I took this semester. I’m hoping this will allow me to focus more while also being less stressed out.

In the end, this was a long, educational semester. The end is in sight. And I mean it, for real this time…

“Okay, this is stressful, but it should be over after this week!”