As an alumnus of Animation Mentor, I remember that my biggest question as a new student was, "how much time will I actually need to put in to be successful?" The one statement I read that stood out to me before I started school was something along the lines of, "kiss your family goodbye, forget about your friends, because you'll need to put 100% of your free time into Animation Mentor." I was determined not be one of those people. I find I need variety in life. To me, people who eat, breathe, sleep, and think about nothing else other than animation are, well, boring.
Obviously the answer is different for every student, but this is how I ended up handling it.
When I started classes at Animation Mentor, I was working full time, and my wife and I just had our first baby. Those two alone took up most of my time. However, I found that if I kept a pretty tight schedule and stuck to it, I was more efficient in getting my school work done while finding time during the week for myself to unwind. I also found that by managing my time better I focused on my tasks more, and I avoided burnout by MAKING TIME to do nothing and get away from the computer.
My schedule looked something like this: during the week, I'd go to work from 9 am to 6 pm. This part was a no brainer. I'd come home, and eat dinner with my family. Once we put our son to bed around 8 pm, I would head into my office and work until about 11:30 or 12 am (however, I never missed an episode of LOST). On Saturdays, I would spend my mornings working on my assignment trying to get as much done as I could, with my afternoons free to be with my family or hang out with my friends. Sunday mornings were for any last minute fixes, then I would get away from the computer for the rest of the day.
I never pulled all-nighters and have tried to hold true to this when I started working at Blue Sky. I find after a certain point, my productivity goes down if I'm over tired and that can actually lead to me making poor decisions while animating. So while attending Animation Mentor, by going to bed at a relatively normal time I found that I could get more done in the morning than in the hours after 1 am.
And what do you do with the free time you carve out for yourself? Go EXPERIENCE LIFE! How can an animator bring characters to life if they're chained to their computer and don't live one for themselves?