10 Ways To Excel In A UX Bootcamp—Even With A Full-Time Job

In his Commencement Address to Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs told students: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” If you're dissati…

Apr 13, 2017
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In his Commencement Address to Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs told students: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

If you're dissatisfied with your current path and are passionate about design, programs like UX Academy offer a portal to a new career. But retraining can be tough going, as you learn and apply new skills, complete demanding coursework, and often hold down the day job as well.

To help, we've put together 10 tips to help you excel as you study, including advice on how to manage a packed schedule, eat right, and dispute self-doubt.

1. Write down your goals and stick them on the wall.

The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
—Steve Jobs

Chances are, you enrolled in a UX bootcamp because you were dissatisfied with your current path and were looking to make a change. This means you already have a great resource at your disposal — ambition.

At the start of your course, write down 5 ways that you want it to change your life. They’re different for everyone, but some common goals are to build a portfolio, create a professional network, and ultimately to get hired as a UX designer.

Display your goals near your desk. When you’re feeling worn out or discouraged, look up at them and remind yourself of the ambitions that led you to enroll. This will not only help center you and restore your self-belief — you will also be able to recognise the steps you’ve already taken making your dreams a reality.

A UX bootcamp is hard work, and is a significant commitment. But, even on the part time track of UX Academy, you will be finished in 6 months. Don’t settle.

2. Explain your studies to family and friends so that they can support you.

True love is born from understanding.
—Gautama Buddha

With the best of intentions, family and friends can sometimes be sceptical towards big changes in our lives. When we’re full of passion and enthusiasm, they want to be a voice of reason, and make sure that we’ve thought things through.

But ultimately, they will support you once they understand what you’re doing and why. Explain just how important it is for you to find fulfilling work in which you can excel. Explain how much work you will need to put into the course in order to succeed.

Once you empower them with that understanding, they will find it easier to support you and to cut you some slack while you’re studying. Just be prepared to do more dishes once you’ve finished the bootcamp.

3. Break down and prioritize your tasks.

Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
—Mark Twain

Having a lot of tasks on your to-do list can often lead to a state of inertia, where you don’t tackle any of them. To break free of this inertia, first, create a master to-do list. It could be on paper, or in a Google Doc, or a task management tool. Whatever works for you.

Second, go through the list and look for big tasks, like “complete module 2”. The problem with “big” tasks is that they’re not really tasks at all, but collections of smaller tasks. So try to break all the items on your to-do list into small, meaningful tasks. “Complete module 2” might become “fix vectors on my icons”, “export graphics”, “write up report”, and “upload for feedback”.

Finally, identify the highest 4 or 5 priorities in the list. Always tackle the highest priorities first, even if they’re not the most fun. You’ll feel good that you “ate the frog”, and you’ll be emotionally released to move on to other work.

4. Take things one day at a time.

The beginning is always today.
—Mary Shelley

Even when you’ve got your tasks planned out and prioritized, having a lot to do can still feel overwhelming. Sometimes this feeling comes from looking too far ahead, and feeling panicked by the uncertainties of the weeks and months to come.

Recognise that you can only act in the present. At the end of each day’s work, write down what you achieved in a journal, and leave a note on your desk setting out what you want to accomplish tomorrow.

That will help you to start the day with a clear sense of what needs to be done, while discouraging you from looking too far ahead. Today is the only day that’s within your power.

5. Eat well, (also eat badly), and drink lots of water.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.
—François de La Rochefoucauld

It’s tough to give general advice when it comes to eating and drinking, because different things work for different people. Above all, drink enough water—it affects cognitive function more than you'd think. Aim to drink around 2 litres of water a day.

Eating a good amount of fruit, vegetables, and starchy food will help to keep your blood sugar steady. If you're feeling acutely stressed, avoid caffeine and substitute caffeinated drinks for non-stimulating herbal tea.

Finally, reward your efforts with something indulgent now and then. Pizza and wine work for me.

6. Schedule time for sleep and relaxation.

Before you sleep, read something that is exquisite, and worth remembering.

When you’ve got a lot to do, it can be tempting to try and carve out extra time by working late or eating meals while working. But most adults need 7 or 8 hours’ sleep a night for normal physical and cognitive function, and you also need to relax properly each day.

If you’re combining a part-time bootcamp with a full-time job, you’re going to need to be pretty disciplined with your time. But it’s important to schedule enough time for sleep and relaxation—it’s just as important as working, and in the long term it will help you to stay on track. Here’s an example schedule for someone working full-time and studying part-time:

  • 8am: Wake up, have breakfast, and travel to work
  • 9am: Morning shift at work
  • 1pm: Leave the office to eat lunch and relax
  • 2pm: Afternoon shift at work
  • 5pm: Travel home and eat dinner
  • 6pm: Relax with family/TV/video games
  • 7pm: UX Academy work
  • 10.30pm: Shower, relax, and maybe read before bed
  • 12am: Sleep

Pulling the occasional late night won’t hurt, but trying to do that every day is more likely to lead to burnout than success. Decide in advance what hours you are going to work on a particular day, so that you don't feel guilty when you’re trying to relax.

When it comes to relaxation time, choose whatever works for you. It could be watching an hour of your favorite TV, talking about your day with your partner, or just reading a book. Try to create a physical space for work and a space for relaxation. (And unless working in bed is your “thing”, try to keep all work — and ideally all electronic devices — out of your bedroom.)

7. Understand procrastination and dispute self-doubt.

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
—Pablo Picasso

Like all human behaviour, we procrastinate for a reason. Procrastination isn’t usually a sign of laziness or of not caring about our work. In fact, it’s more often the opposite: we procrastinate because we recognise the importance of our work, we know how much we and others care about it, and we don’t want to mess it up.

In short, procrastination is a manifestation of self-doubt, and many creative people are chronic self-doubters. You can’t banish self-doubt forever—but you can adopt strategies to dispute those doubts when they’re blocking your progress.

Procrastination can strike even when we’re doing work we love. It can come from a fear of failure, or from a feeling that a particular task is too big to tackle. Unfortunately procrastination often just adds to our stress levels, because on top of the pressure of the work, you start to feel guilty for not doing it! It’s a vicious cycle, which can quickly mean that avoiding work becomes more unpleasant than just doing it.

The best way to dispute procrastination is to get a pen and paper, and start drawing, writing, doodling, brainstorming — start anywhere, and focus on what you can achieve in the next 15 minutes, not what you need to achieve in the next day, or week, or month. Another strategy is to take all your work, and lay it out in front of you (whether physically, or on screen) — and just take notice how much you’ve already achieved.

8. Take these tips from Designlab UX Academy students who went on to great jobs.

Watch the Lynda videos at 1.5x speed. Trust me. —Rachee Jacobs

Remember why you're doing this, and why you know it’s worth it. Write down these reasons before you start, when your motivation is high and you’re feeling fresh. Then read it back to yourself when you need to at difficult moments during the course. —Tracy Lin

Above all, work hard and network. The hardest part of my learning journey was not knowing what was going to come out of my time on the course, and how long it would take me to find a job. But after some hard work and perseverance, things couldn’t have turned out better. —Sammy de Joya

Find a way to get organized so that you have enough time to complete the work without feeling overwhelmed. Also, read and listen to as much further information about design as you can. —Celeste North

Take advantage of the fact that you have mentors, direct access to the course designers, and group of amazing students from all over the world that you can relate with. —Wendy Pei

9. If things are getting too much, take a week to pause.

The most precious resource we all have is time.
—Steve Jobs

You can pause Designlab’s UX Academy course any time, without cost or penalty, and many other bootcamp providers will do the same.

If stress or anxiety is getting out of control, check out these resources:

Remember, working at this intensity is only temporary. Soon you’ll be looking back at a job well done, and looking forward to your new role as a UX designer. Nevertheless, your health is always more important than your studies. Studying can wait—your health can’t.

10. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
—Thomas Edison

Changing careers is challenging. It demands many hours of hard work, which has to be balanced with jobs, relationships, and health. But years from now, when you’re a successful UX Designer, you’ll look back on your bootcamp as a pivotal moment in your life, and see that it was worth the effort. Don’t give up!

Considering a UX design course? We’ve just launched a huge set of updates to UX Academy. With these new features, UXA isn’t just a place to gain technical design competence through a rigorous, relevant curriculum. It’s also a community experience that fosters soft skills, and is ultimately a portal to a new career. Priced at just $6,749, we’re also proud to be able to offer unprecedented value to students.

If you’d like more information about how the program works, check out the new UX Academy homepage. Drop us a line at hello@trydesignlab.com if you’ve got any questions!

Launch a career in ux design with our top-rated program

Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.

Launch a career in ux design with our top-rated program

Top Designers Use Data.

Gain confidence using product data to design better, justify design decisions, and win stakeholders. 6-week course for experienced UX designers.