I’ve been having a really hard time on my new job. I had to help out on a project where I knew nothing about the technology or the code or even the basic concepts.

It was so bad at times I thought I would go crazy or else my head would explode. Then I got over it and I figured I’ll record my experience here – for myself and for students who might be reading and will end up in similar situations.

I always say that however hard one thinks that school is – work (if it’s a good job) is much harder. Not just in terms of time and energy required, but a number of other skills too. One of them is dealing with extreme requirements.

“Time management” does not do this concept justice. In the past I used stickies or bug tracking systems or email to prioritise all the work I had to do, and that helped me deal with too many requirements. Scope creep was my favourite thought when deciding what to do.

This time I was in a different situation. I could not do the same as usual because I had no idea how to do any of the work I needed to do, no idea how long it would take, and I was given no time to learn anything. The deadlines were very ambitions, the actual (or imagined) effect of potential failure very severe. Everything had to be done right now, with no hacks, fully functioning, etc.

This caused an enormous amount of stress. So much that often I nearly cried, and at other times I felt like a completely useless fool. Luckily I used to think of such situations when I had the time and energy to contemplate, and I was able to recall some of my conclusions. Those recollections brought me back to life.

Truth #1. You cannot do the impossible

Based on others’ expectations and beliefs you may be tempted to think that you aren’t smart enough or experienced enough or work hard enough and that’s why you’re not getting your assignment done. Through that thought out the window.

Whatever position you’re holding – it didn’t fall on your lap, you got it because you’ve proven you deserve it. If it requires more time than someone else thinks – that’s a fact. State it, and stick to it.

Truth #2. You must not overwork yourself

It is true that for a short stretch of time one can work really hard without any breaks, and deliver more in 48 hours than they would normally in two weeks. And you can do that in extreme cases, when it is warranted.

The problem is that after these 48 hours you are so burned out that the following two weeks you’re useless. Any benefit of the hard push is thus nullified. Furthermore there are other problems such as broken morale, damaged relationships, and physical damage that will take much longer to recover.

If you explain this to your boss doesn’t get this – tell him to kiss your ass. If you don’t have the balls or the opportunity to explain this – hold to this rule anyway, you will be better off in the end.

Truth #3. Usual time management techniques still help

Once you internalise truths #1 and #2 – get back to how you normally prioritise tasks. Handle blocking tasks first; neglect “requirements” that came out of someone’s ass; multitask when reasonable to do so; don’t hesitate to ask for advice; be proud of what you get done when you get it done; and state when you need help.

Will these truths apply to your experience? Maybe, maybe not. What helped me is that I had them in my head before the serious stress came, and when it did I just had to recall them. Once I did – I felt better right away and got back to getting things done to the best of my ability, instead of crying myself into a mess.