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Over the last couple of years, math and programming have become a big part of my life; I know I’ll pursue a career involving CS and math (most probably machine learning) and usually, my days revolve around these two. Now, I do not have a problem with doing either of those things; in fact, I love doing math and programming. I literally can’t tell you how much I enjoy opening my number theory book and tackle difficult problems for hours, or create a neural network that plays a video game. My main issue is the things I miss - since I go to school, I only have so much free time and most of that time is spent doing math or programming so I don’t get to do anything else. No more exercising, reading books, hanging out with friends, etc. On a normal day, I do around 4 hours of math and programming and the rest of it is taking a shower, eating, just basic things, with no time to do fun stuff. So every now and then, I try reducing that 4 hours but I feel like if I study for less than 4 hours a day at least, I won’t be able to be a top tier data scientist or mathematician.

My question is, how do you manage to study and have a balance in your life at the same time? Is that even possible or do you have to sacrifice one in order to achieve the other?

A couple of things to note:

  1. If it matters, I’m in grade 9.

  2. One of the reasons I feel like I have to study at least 4 hours a day is because there are so many things I’m currently studying - for olympiad: number theory, geometry, and algebra; grade 10 math; competitive programming; and machine learning. I don’t study all of these in one day - I usually only do 3 of these a day but even then, if I spend 80 minutes, that’ll take up 4 hours. So maybe stopping doing one of these things is a good option?

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    Speaking as a former high school student with exactly this problem, the trick is to secretly do what you actually want to do while hiding at the back of the classroom. Frees up six hours a day at least. – knzhou Sep 1 at 17:24
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    While many of the answers below are very good, I feel like there also needs to be at least one answer challenging the "I feel like if I study for less than 4 hours a day at least, I won’t be able to be a top tier data scientist or mathematician" part of the question. If no-one else gets to it first, I'll try to put one together when I have a little longer later... – Stobor Sep 1 at 23:27
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    I'm a university student, and you're pretty much describing my life. – Galaxy Sep 2 at 4:31
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    By "grade 9" do you mean secondary eduction such as High School in the United States? Important to note in this context, as most topics on this site address University life. – Basil Bourque Sep 2 at 23:25
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    What does "grade 9" mean? Not everyone here is from your country (which you have not specified) or familiar with your schooling system. – TRiG Sep 3 at 10:43

12 Answers 12

54

Yes, it matters that you are in grade 9. It is probably a good thing that you are able to do what you like to do (math and computing), but it seems too early to focus yourself quite so much on narrow interests. The problem that might arise is that you get burned out before you are 20 years old with no backup plan for your life and also poor health and no relationships with people. That would be sad.

It is good to work intensely at something, but not quite as good to do so to the exclusion of other things. There is a lot to learn, and you are recognizing that now, at least a bit. In fact, making time for those other things, such as exercise (aerobic especially) and relaxation (reading, talking, ...) can actually make the intense study that you do more effective. At least this is true for most people, though there are exception. But, for most, continuing to push hard against an intellectual problem, say in math, can just waste time and lead to a deeper block, than taking a break. It turns out that, again, for most people, the brain/mind will continue to work on putting connections together when you are engaged in other activities, even sleeping.

But, for someone as young as yourself, I'd suggest that you think about the following priorities. First, your health, both mental and physical. Next, your relationships, both family and friends. Next, getting a lot of experience of different kinds, studying lots of things with deep study of a few of them. You seem to have the deep study part mastered, but may be missing out on the wide experience that can make the deep study more meaningful and also give you options to change direction as you grow older.

It is good to have some direction in your life, but not, yet, a good idea to exclude all other potential paths that you might follow.

As for time management, you can do it formally, or informally. If you joint a sports team or other directed activity, then your schedule will be set for you. But you can also just decide that you will ride your bike for an hour every day - preferably with a few friends. Or you can just decide, even more informally, that when you get stuck on a math problem that you take a walk in the woods for half an hour, or read a chapter in a book. Something to provide a bit of variety.

At a later stage in your life you will be forced by circumstances to specialize in something. It is good if you put that off for a while so that you have the opportunity to make the decision about where to specialize with more background knowledge and experience than you now have.

  • Returning the favor, good advice on yours as well – Michael Stachowsky Sep 1 at 16:29
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    Be careful with putting family and friends relationships on the top. There's people that do nothing with their free time, have no personal aspirations and no personal projects and can and will happily add you to their hang out group of people that do nothing else than pass their free time in front of the tv/at the bar with a beer, talking about others, etc. Its ok if you like it, but for some of us these are devoid of value. I'd put family and friends in the position where you see them enough for them to not miss you, but not above your interests. They can and might take all your time. – Oxy Sep 2 at 8:14
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    I agree in general with this answer, but I find it problematic to say that the OP shouldn't go deep into studying any particular topic just because of their age (it feels like you're implying that, please do correct me if I've misinterpreted). If the OP is really interested, I think it is more than reasonable to dedicate time and effort towards studying the subject if they truly feel rewarded by the experience (and it isn't a chore), treating it much like a hobby. Getting too absorbed isn't good of course, but not getting absorbed enough isn't good either. – YiFan Sep 2 at 12:12
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    @YiFan, I think a small misinterpretation, anyway. I recommend only not going into one subject to the exclusion of all else. Getting a broad education early gives you more flexibility as you grow and mature. See the first sentence of the second paragraph for the emphasis. – Buffy Sep 2 at 12:14
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    @Oxy I would not call people like that friends.... Familiy can be toxic, but if they are not quite often these are the people that will support no matter what. You describe a quite bitter view, this is not how I can see things, but everyone and their circumstances are different. – Kami Kaze Sep 3 at 7:30
23

Time management and reasonable expectations. You need to determine what, specifically, your goals are, and why. It sounds like you enjoy what you are learning, but you are letting learning take over other aspects of your life. This is bad almost always. Here are my suggestions:

  1. You shouldn't be studying everything every day. This is for many reasons, but one of them is that you literally will learn better if you don't. Our brains need time to process and contextualize information. This is why sometimes leaving a problem for a while and coming back to it leads to a solution you didn't see before. Say you drop one thing per day, so now you're only doing 2 per day, not 3. That frees up an hour and 20 minutes per day, and it gives you time to think.

  2. With the free time, again, prioritize. You will now have about an hour to do something else. Perhaps you choose to exercise three times per week, do some de-stressing (read, play a game) twice per week, and see friends twice per week. Don't try to do it all at once.

Finally, we get to reasonable expectations. Regardless of your age, excelling at something is not equivalent to doing it as much as possible. Practice doesn't make perfect - it makes permanent. That means a few things:

  1. If you are practicing the wrong thing, you get really good at making mistakes.
  2. If you spend all of your time learning things in isolated fields, you will become a walking book.
  3. It's not what you put in that matters, it's what you get out.

Point 3 bears more discussion. Just because you are implementing algorithms doesn't mean you are learning anything. If I play the piano but I stick with pieces I've played since I was 6, I don't get better at piano. Choose to focus on very challenging problems. For instance, if your algorithm can play flappy bird for 2 minutes without failing, what, specifically, is required to get it to play for 10% longer? Are you focusing on really solving the problems, or are you just using someone else's code and seeing what happens? If it's the latter, don't waste your hour and twenty minutes, it won't help you in your goal.

Top-tier scientists in machine learning (for example) understand both the algorithms they work on as well as the problems they are trying to solve. They are technical experts, but that doesn't mean that they are hermits working away forever without any access to the outside world. Having a passion is important, but don't become your passion - be a well-rounded person with exceptional expertise. This means that you will need to accept that your progress will be slower than it could theoretically be if you only dedicated yourself to your studies. I assure you that every "top-tier" researcher I've ever encountered has had something that isn't their central problem to solve.

I think that's one of the things you will need to set an expectation for. You seem to think that it is impossible to be a top-tier researcher if you don't exclusively focus on your studies. Try...not doing that, as I suggested above, and really, honestly evaluate your progress.

  • Well, I can't upvote my own, so I'll upvote yours. Good advice. – Buffy Sep 1 at 14:43
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    +1 for mentioning about becoming a walking book. Nowadays, there seem to be too many people who learn things but can't apply those in real life. – r.mirzojonov Sep 2 at 15:10
  • @David: ah, yes of course. Edited, and thanks – Michael Stachowsky Sep 3 at 13:44
13

To add on to the other two excellent answers, I want to say that you perhaps are putting too much on your own plate.

number theory(for olympiad and not applied), geometry(again, for olympiad), algebra(olympiad again), grade 10 math, competitive programming and machine learning

This is way too much to learn at the same time, especially since you are still going to school. Even undergrad students don't do so much at the same time: they might take a few classes on different topics concurrently, sure, but they have the luxury of time. All or most of the classes they take will be on these topics that they are studying, which I bet isn't the case for you.

I would suggest picking one thing to do at once, and doing it well. You can't learn effectively within time constraints if you're doing five different topics at the same time. Your brain needs time to digest new information that is learnt, and you have to give it space to do so. If your brain has no space to breathe, you'll not learn effectively, not to mention that it will (needlessly) take away time from other things in life while not giving you anything good to make up for it.

In addition, don't just study a topic because you feel like you "should" (e.g. because that's what's tested in Olympiads), do it because you like it. Try out a bunch of different things and try to see what you like, instead of doing it for the sake of doing it. If you already have a strong passion for everything you're currently doing, great! Keep that up and also be on the lookout for other things on the horizon. Otherwise, find a passion in one particular item and stick to it for a while. (Note: I'm not suggesting that you abandon everything else, but you can't do everything at once. Focus on this one thing that seems interesting at the moment for a while at least--perhaps a few weeks. But don't get sucked in so much that you ignore everything else.)

Practically: don't feel "obliged" to study four hours a day, in the fields that look like you "have to" study. Just pick one thing you like, and do it as a hobby. Stick to it for a while, but it you ever get disinterested, don't be afraid to switch. You'll come out liking math better, and you'll be much better at it too (ironically). Be careful not to get absorbed, or it will suck away the rest of your life, as you observed!

10

A couple of ther points to consider, at least from my own experience.

1) "Study" has diminishing returns, at least in programming-related things. It's much more efficient to focus on understanding broad principles, and on where to look up the details when & if you need them.

2) Your mind will function a lot better if it's in a healthy body. And a corrolary to this is that I do some of my best problem-solving when I'm out hiking, cross-country skiing, or doing other physical things. The subconscious part of your brain will do a better job of integrating the things you've studied if your conscious mind is doing something else. Or else it's just increased blood flow to the brain :-)

9

It seems like you know at least as much CS/math as the average sophomore in college, and you're only in grade 9. You're well on your way to being a top-tier data scientist/mathematician... spending 4 hours a day right now isn't at all necessary. I'd recommend picking the subjects you enjoy the most and studying for roughly 2 hours.

7

To add on to the fantastic answers: while some of the topics that interest will stay the same (i.e. math), the 'popular' topics may change (i.e. machine learning). It is absolutely fantastic that you are practicing so young, but do not burn yourself out on a topic that may look very different in 3-5 years (i.e. by the time you are in the midst of university). It is a skill in and of one's self to be adaptable.

For example, widespread 'popular' machine learning started in about 2013/2014 (although it had been in development long before that). In another 5-10 years, there will likely be another 'popular' field (that may be describable with combinations like 'data chemist', 'deep biologist', 'data engineer for economics', etc) which may be attractive to you. So, read carefully what others are saying: while it is certainly advantageous to have a foundation in mathematics, computer science, etc., the problem you apply it is also immensely important.

What parts about life interest you? Do you like history? Perhaps you'd like to analyze historical records for trade trends, or map historical routes using satellite sensors that pierce into the earth. Do you like study the human body? While we have the most advanced medical interventions the world has known, the cause of many diseases remain completely unknown (search 'Neglected Tropical Diseases'). Perhaps you are more interested in art? Well, there is a large section of chemistry and materials engineering trying to figure out how to better preserve the historical objects in museums.

Your intense efforts so young are commendable and will likely pay off, but remember that many great researchers make achievements through passion about the subject (not to mention a heavy dollop of being in the right place at the right time). So read broadly! Examine your interests! Be open to change, and accept that your interests will likely change over time.

6

most of that time is spent doing math or programming so I don’t get to do anything else. No more exercising, reading books, hanging out with friends, etc.

So, this is bothering you, on one hand, but you're drawn to go on studying, on the other hand. Consider helping your balance of motivation by adding some kind of "pull" from the non-study activities side.

For example, if there's some kind of group activity you could participate in, and you took on some sort of responsibility (e.g. simple and maybe-irrelevant example - you're the person who brings the ball to a soccer game), or be in a situation where other people depend on your attending - that should help pull you away from your studies to some extent. Or - you enroll in some group at a community or sports center, e.g. sports, theater, film or whatever: You will have officially committed to it, and although you won't be formally penalized if you don't show up, that commitment has its psychological effect.

These two examples also demonstrate how setting time-slots may help you. You don't have to make the decision "I'll stop studying now" every single time, you're just deciding on a schedule once.

5

My opinion differs somewhat from the current answers (which primarily focuses on doing less and exploring more), which is why I'm writing an answer to perhaps balance things out a bit.

Some context. I worked pretty hard when I was 15 to end of 16 (I'm in Singapore which follows roughly the UK GCSE system so providing the specific age is probably more helpful here) in preparation for the O level national exams. That single exam determines your high school choices, which may affect your A level exams (at age 18), which affect your university choices, etc. So yeah, stakes were high. I was pushing myself to the point where I had my notes almost everywhere I go, to pull out and read whenever. This include family dinners, toilets, buses, you name it. I photocopied my notes so I can fold some and keep in my pockets at all times. That was more than 10 years ago, so looking back, these are my thoughts.

First, the pros. If you persist with this for long enough, everything else is going to feel like a breeze later on. You'll see people complaining about their long 9-6 hours and you'll go lol in your head. It translates into a strong work ethic, if only because you'll feel guilty about "wasting" time. You'll be really good at picking out lost time packets, those 5-15 minute chunks that people just dismiss. These obviously manifest itself into academic (and probably career) success later on, because what felt hard to others in terms of time devotion feels easy to you. A similar concept applies for jobs with long working hours (e.g. investment bankers, lawyers, doctors, when they're at the junior level), in that everything that comes after is going to feel trivial when compared to how hard they had to push themselves previously.

Second, early childhood academic success frequently leads to a higher self-esteem and greater confidence in what you can do and achieve. You're probably still going to feel self-conscious about your looks and stuff, but that positive feedback loop of working-hard=>achievement-praise-directly-related-to-hard-work (which apply in schools but may not in workplaces) is probably going to give you that assurance that so long as you work at it, you can achieve whatever you want. That you're good enough, and all that is lacking is work that you have the proven ability to commit to and deliver. This makes things like learning new hard subjects and skills easier and so likelier for you, which comes in handy. Career switches, esoteric subjects you need for your major/job, or just trying out skiing for the first time, it's fairly generic.

Third, and this is a point that may invite some disagreements. It's easier for you to commit to such a schedule now, when your life is simpler. I presume you don't have to worry about food, accommodation, you have splendid access to a pool of people from which it is very easy to make friends (school, common interests, stuck together during most of the day), and you kind-of only have one thing to do now to obtain "success", namely study. It's harder in the future when success is far more ambiguous and you find yourself having to perform well on several axes all at once, not all of which is evident to you until you learn it the hard way. So if you don't work hard now, it isn't going to be easier to work hard, or to figure out what to work hard on to get what you want later on.

So, yup. My advice would be this: Continue to do what you do. Never feel guilty about spending too much time working. (honestly, crucify me but I really don't agree otherwise. When you're 30 and neglecting your family and kids, sure. When you're 15 and healthy and your family members are healthy and there's a positive feedback effect in how success compounds itself in life? Err, no, clearly not.) Go all out for it. Put in your best shot. Exploit your potential to the max, never hold back. Know that what you have, is precious. Guard this motivation, defend it jealously, and exploit it fully. It will not last forever.

But.

Take note of the cons. Mitigate them somewhat, in an efficient manner. There's this maximisation-satisfaction idea, that you spend enough time and effort to satisfy some stuff, and then spend the remaining to maximise your performance in something else, in this case your work.

So, what to satisfy. This is obviously a non-exhaustive list, so be open to the fact that there will be others and look out for them, but otherwise here it goes.

First, your family. I don't have much information to work with, with regards to your family practices, so I'll just throw out a few. Try to spend time with them efficiently. Optimise for fully interactive activities that involve all, so you clear them all at once. Things like family dinners with everyone, somewhere nearby since the transport process isn't efficient for interactions. Talk to them more if you don't mind, your time is spent anyway so make the most out of it. Avoid things like long drives, movies, you know what I mean, the less efficient ones. Try to go for at least one proper dinner like this once a month. Or even family board games night, whatever works for your family. By the way, in case this is taken wrongly, I don't mean you spending this time as a checkbox thing. Genuinely interact with them. Have the mindset that you want to spend time with them, but time is limited so you'll make the best out of every second, instead of thinking of it as clearing a quota.

Second, your classmates and friends. Now, there are several time periods in school that is inefficient for studying, but optimal for such interactions. Things like recess, physical education classes, that sort. Make full use of them, drop those books then (maybe, decide for yourself which sessions are worth doing so or you want to do so) and commit fully to your friends and classmates. Again, see mindset from family, same thing here. Make friends, make new friends, but never feel obliged to go for stuff that you don't want. It's just going to breed resentment, you're going to hit the books harder because of the guilt and frustration, you'll be inefficient because of that, and yeah it just goes down from there. It's not worth it. You matter. Your choices, your decisions matter. Your time is yours, nobody has a right to them. Nobody. So, commit mostly only to those you want to go (but try to make your word count. Say no a lot right from the start, I know peer pressure, but trust me it's better than bailing later). I assure you, people care about your presence far less than you think. So, don't worry about it.

Third, physical health. Meh, you'll be fine, combine it with the friends time (or even family if they like that kind). PE lessons, go all out for it. Go for (some) badminton/soccer/whatever outings, you satisfy your friends/family along with physical health. Otherwise, it's mostly k, take care of your eyes, get a bigger monitor so you can increase font size/print your notes in larger font. People are going to ask why, they're going to say it's unnecessary, you're wasting paper/money. Whatever, ignore them, your eyes are worth way more. Distance matters a lot, try to increase it. Avoid strongly studying in low light. Also take note of your posture when studying.

Fourth, mental health. I split this from physical because it is important, even though you may not realise it now. You have to spend some time doing what you like. For yourself, not for others, not because it's efficient, not because it satisfies whatever. For yourself. Obviously don't take it to the extreme, but an hour a day on average is ok. On average, so if you're spending half a day gaming on a weekend, yeah that cuts into the rest. Two points here. First, this guy gets a free pass. If you need to extend, so be it. Console yourself by thinking that you'll be more efficient if you're motivated, and you'll be more effective. What's the difference? Being more efficient means you spend less 15-second blocks staring at the blank wall because you're bored. Being more effective means when you encounter a problem that you can solve but it reminds you you're not actually that familiar with a particular concept, you go to your book and read that section, rather than subconsciously dismissing it (you can solve it, right?). It matters quite a bit to your overall performance, more than what you might imagine, and happens more than you think. Be aggressive about filling in the gaps, but know when it's a fruitless time-sink and cut losses then.

Second point, see the above time spent on family/friends? Try to combine them, so you try to go for stuff that you genuinely enjoy, and avoid stuff that you don't. Think of it as a freebie. Viola, free time yo. Of course, if your family really wants to try that mexican restaurant but you hate mexican food, do it once in a while still.

Finally, explore other academic areas with a view on ensuring that you're not pigeon-holing yourself due to your interests. It's far too easy to say oh maths is really good as a college major/career choice, and incidentally I like maths. The former may be true, but you need to be aware that you're just rationalising here (but, the former may be true, so don't just dismiss). I'm not going to pretend that I know what the requirements for a top-tier data scientist 20 years down the road is going to need (although it sure as hell isn't geography or literature), so try to talk to some people who are in that field. Be aggressive about asking, put yourself out there, so long as you're genuine and nice and polite people will be ok with it. Send them a thank-you message/email after. Think of it as free advice, just grab it whenever you have the chance. Three points here. First, don't place too much weight on what your teachers say, they're detached from the job market, and many may never have even tried to get into industry, so they haven't gone through the what-are-they-looking-for search at all. Second, don't place too much weight on a singular person, no matter how esteemed. Obviously weight it by who they are, but don't place all your bets on a single horoscope reading (because predicting the future is). Third, trust yourself. If it smells like rubbish, it *probably is, even if that someone assure you it's not. Unless it's a few, in which case do some research on your own. Also, don't pigeon-hole yourself into single careers. Explore a bit, try more if it's fun, especially if it's assessed in your exams. Might as well.

That about sums it up from me. In direct response to your questions, yes studying for less than 4 hours isn't going to exclude you from whatever circles you wish to join. Still, if pretending that that is true helps in motivating you, go ahead. Some circles are quite competitive. No, I don't think you should drop any. If you like them, go for it. They're all really useful skills that scale very well. Number theory is highly abstract and that mathematical mental framework helps in making many college-level maths subjects easier to gain a deep understanding, I *think, depending on which level you're at. At a high school or US non-grad college level, yes it's quite transferable. Geometry scales well up to and incl college physics/maths, algebra scales to when you die, competitive programming and optimisation helps you understand OS/systems stuff at a deep level, machine learning is the new black (and everyone's wearing black, which is bloody annoying but whatever). By the way, and I don't mean to burn the US here, but you need to be aware that US standards for maths and related is kind of low. To put things in perspective, the singapore PSLE maths exam (which is taken at age 12) is comparable/harder than the SAT maths. Like, it's obvious it is, I'm not exaggerating. So, yeaaaaah. You can go a lot further, it's k, you're probably/definitely not so far ahead that you should stop.

Trust, but verify. You're a really mature and intelligent individual, your weakness is probably in experience. So trust yourself in the calls you make, but verify with some people whose opinion you trust. Some, not just one/a few, otherwise there's a tendency for selection bias. But make the call yourself, and bear the consequences yourself, you'll be fine. Dare to ask, many people (as you may have realised here from my long story) have too much time on their hands and are too eager to spew their hard-earned bullshit to anyone who would listen. So ask, accept first, and then verify, through personal research and perhaps asking others.

  • 4
    Does anyone look back on their life and say “If only I had studied more” [maybe a school drop-out would say that, but certainly not OP], “If only I had worked more”, “If only I had earned more”, “If only I had been promoted more”? I think it’s a bad idea to waste ones best and healthiest years on a career. – Michael Sep 3 at 6:49
  • Citation needed for the second point – David Sep 3 at 13:22
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    If you haven't built relationshipss at 15, you probably won't be able to do it at 30 anymore – David Sep 3 at 13:42
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    This answer needs more upvotes. Studying at an early (middle-high school) age is not something that should be shamed upon or that people should be discouraged from, having a variety of benefits (which this excellent answer touches on). Young people (like OP) need to take note not to have it suck up the rest of their life, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with working hard in studying. – YiFan Sep 3 at 22:14
3

One thing to add to the other, great answers is that it's also important to back off sometimes in order to see how much effort you actually need.

When we're passionate enough to want to work at the highest level, it's easy to act on that by filling every hour.
But of course, if you think about it more objectively, that may or may not be best.

  • As a serious student, don't forget it is a genuine question to ask if you might do equally as well - or rather well enough - with less time.

You might try taking one topic or activity and cutting back it's clock time slowly
and see if you can't actually maintain the growth or success you want.

1

Just wanted to point out your sentence that states: "I won't be able to be a top-tier data scientist or mathematician if I don't study this much every day." This is unfortunately true, unless you're a da Vinci level genius.

I would recommend re-evaluating your goals. Do you really need to be top-tier? You can be mid-tier and get an excellent job that pays well and has benefits. Keep in mind that the harder you work to get to the top, the harder you'll likely have to work at the top, as the most "successful" people generally work very long hours and sacrifice things like fun and family.

As Michael says in his comment, don't waste your life on your career. Put time into it, but don't make it your everything. It's important to diversify what brings you joy and validation and self-worth so if one thing falls through, you won't be totally devastated and depressed.

  • "This is unfortunately true" no, it is not. There is especially no necessity to start so early in one's life. – YiFan Sep 3 at 22:15
1

There are about seven great answers to this question, so there is not a lot to add here, but still, I find this 3500+ year old quote quite interesting to mention.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Religious matters aside, I think it's critical to take one day per week off, distracting yourself with other matters (family, friends, sports, games, hobbies...). The main reasons are those stated in previous answer (your brain needs resting and operating in "subconscious mode"). This will also give you time to build your relationships with other people and/or to exercise.

Still, I think once a week is probably not enough. At least two more times a week it is good to have a couple resting hours to dedicate to these activities, but anyway this is up to you. You have to figure out yourself what works and what doesn't, because it's different for each of us!

1

Don't worry, if you study 2-3 hours a night instead of 4 hours a night, I guarantee that you WILL be top-tier in your field. I can also pretty much guarantee that if all you do is study and practice, you will NOT be top-tier. Your life will suffer in ways you do not currently understand. To torture some AI terms: you are overfitting. You are obsessing about a local minima and missing the larger picture that contains a more global minima. I suggest watching Are you GETTING AFTER IT too hard - Jocko Willink https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LWPC-jaqkY

You are a human, programming machines. You are not a machine. Take time to be human. It's awesome that you are so intrigued and dedicated to your studies :)

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