Salman Al-Mutawa

One of the more vital realizations most students undergo is the Work-Play-Sleep balance. Common knowledge dictates that you can only have two of these at a time, sacrificing the third. Well, I’m here to tell you that that is not true, and here is how:
One of the first things you learn as an Industrial Engineer is to isolate the value-added choices vs non-value-added choices.

What do I mean by this?
Let’s say you have a quiz on Monday, and your friends want you to go out with them Sunday night to watch a movie or a football match. You know that if you go out with them you will either 1) oversleep and miss class, or 2) go to class drowsily and underperform in the quiz. Now based on your personality, you can do one of two things: go out with friends, or don’t.
But let’s add a third factor, weight.

No, not your weight. The weight missing a quiz has on your grade. Say a professor weighs the grades such that all quizzes you take combined are 5 percent of your grade. Another professor weighs quizzes as 50 percent of your grades, with a total of five quizzes per semester per each respective professor. A nerd would go to the quiz and ditch his or her friends regardless of the tradeoff. A smart nerd would ditch his or her friends if the quiz is more than 5 percent of their grade, say 10 or 15 percent.
Are you a nerd? Or a smart nerd? If you train yourself to categorize your options based on their value, you can have the benefits of all three sides of the triangle without the stress of sacrificing one. Let’s do another exercise.
Say the quizzes are worth 15 percent of your grade. This means that missing a quiz could either hurt you in the long run or not hurt you at all based on your future performance in the class.

Now you look at your Play option, are your friends really worth hanging out with? Or will they go out again in a couple of days because that is what they usually do? A nerd would ditch his or her friends to study for the quiz. A smart nerd would promise them to make it next time, and study for the quiz. Be a smart nerd, always put yourself first, and if your friends are good friends they will understand, but remember, putting yourself first also means that you must do what your friends want you to do sometimes, because investing in your relationships is equally important, if not more important, than investing in your studies alone.

If you leave your home country only to come back with a degree, then you have wasted four golden years of your life. This may sound harsh, but many would agree that it is true.
You must also define what exactly your work-play-sleep categories include. How much sleep is too much? If eight hours is a perfect night, then you can clearly gauge balancing your sleep cycle.

Is studying work?
For most of us, yes, but for others it may be a little tricky. Take the following billionaire dropouts for example. We know of tech billionaires who never finished their degree’s and went on to become some of the most influential people on the planet. Didn’t these people break the triangle? Well, not really. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates are prime examples of people who saw the true weight of both “work” options they were facing.

Sometimes we hear people joking about how these individuals dropped out of school and made it big, which romanticizes being lazy or even dropping out. These people fail to mention however, that all of these successful drop outs faced a choice: finish studying and risk someone else beating you to your entrepreneurial goal, or drop out and give your undivided attention to your goal. They understood that the work it took to make their ideas into reality weighed more and had more value than the work it took to get the degree, and as a result decided to shift their work-play-sleep triangles in another direction.

Take the time to write down where your balance is, think about what isn’t really worth doing, and how you can balance that energy with something else that is more productive, and finally, please do not drop out of school unless you are 95 percent sure you can become a millionaire.

By Salman Al Mutawa