Monday: A Week into a Behavior Analyst's Hustle and Grind

This is part of a 7-piece series that highlights the dedication and experiences that go into just one week of my life as a behavior analyst at the present time. 

Author - Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

Author - Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA


3:51 AM - Alarm sounds and is immediately snoozed.

4:00 AM - Snoozed alarm sounds (ever wonder why it's 9 minutes?)

4:15 AM - Coffee in hand, bags packed to head out the door. 

4:30 AM - Gym session begins. 

5:40 AM - Gym session ends, shower complete, meal-prepped food in hand. 

6:30 AM - Get to the office of job 1 to review materials, plan for the day, and get the company car. 

Alright, let's explain the first job. I work as a Learning Systems Development Specialist at High Sierra Industries - a non-profit that serves people with intellectual (primarily adults with intellectual disabilities prior to a new service I helped create that we're starting to scale-up in local schools). I essentially design curriculum, complete some formal and informal internal and external training, as well as work with some of the executives and managers on goal-setting processes. It's a fun job, and it has a pretty great culture that allows us to innovate, work independently, as well as meet some really great community members (e.g., state elected officials, owners of nationally known businesses, casino owners, mom-and-pop shops). 

7:25 AM - Check into a local high school with a colleague where we deliver 7 classes of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS), which I worked with Tom Buqo and Mark Malady in designing from the ground up using the non-linear instructional design process

Oh, and a quick lunch break was in there from 11:15-11:45 AM. 

2:35 PM - Return to the office for a team meeting where we all update on the progress made on various tasks to hopefully scale Pre-ETS services to the approximately ~8,000 students eligible in the ~50-mile radius in the Reno/Tahoe area. 

5:00 PM - Sit down at home and outline what needs to be completed prior to sleep. 

5:15 PM - Realize that there's little to no time for sleep. 

5:30 PM - Run into an issue of processing video for the upcoming event (linked below), and realize that it's probably best to take a nap and wake back up.

5:45 PM - Eat dinner, and cross fingers that the video will be ready to edit when I finish. 

6:00 PM - Dinner is over, and video is going to be two hours (i.e., can't get any of my work complete that I was planning on doing). 

6:30 PM - Fall asleep. 

8:00 PM - Awake to a computer readied with files for me to edit. 

2:00 AM - Realize that there are about 10 more tasks that need to be completed prior to the launch of this website and event. Deep breaths ensue and are soon to be conquered. 

4:00 AM - Finish some last minute (simple) coding on the website, integrate a few other services like Zendesk into the website, finalize all the social media platforms for "launch," and start talking with east-coast and Brazilian team members on various projects since it's regular working hours in their area of the world. 

6:00 AM - Go live with this website, all related social media, and start to identify errors and bugs. 

8:00 AM - Finish squashing bugs, solving problems, and time to eat and shower for the next day. 

It's kind of unclear where this day ends, so we'll stop there and pick it back up in the Tuesday edition of this 7-part series. Another thing to note is there's about 1 hour total of communication that occur throughout the day (between bells at the school, in meetings, etc.) communicating with loved ones, friends, and colleagues on other projects that I wasn't working on this particular day. 


  1. Total students served that day ~85 students for 1-hour each in a 10:1 ratio
  2. Completed a solid ~20 hour day (if you end at midnight)
  3. Only 3 hours and 51 minutes on my phone.
  4. Squeezed in some exercise 
  5. Completed ~25-ish hours of work related to behavior analysis in all the tasks above
  6. Met all my day job expectations, as well as my additional project goals for the day
  7. High School students are pretty awesome, and behavior analysts need to be working with them more. Pre-ETS has allowed me the opportunity to create some cool instructional materials to help students explore self-advocacy, what they are interested in doing after high school, and how they can follow their interests. 
  8. A beautiful 1-hour meeting with the team made me realize how great everyone is that I work with at HSI day-to-day. There's a lot of trust and learning across all of the members there, which is what I value and cherish. I hope everyone experiences this where they work everyday. 


  1. Probably shaved some time off of my life for only sleeping 90 minutes (it feels better to put it into minutes when it gets lower than 3 hours I find).
  2. Underestimated the amount of work it was going to take to be ready to launch this website and event - make note for the future to not do that again. (Will likely forget...)

Final Thoughts:

I think there are four sorts of people in the world (for the sake of simplicity that is...): 

  1. I think that there's a lot of people out there that work their ass off. 
  2. I also think there a lot of people our there that want to work their ass off and have a hard time getting going (Psst- NextGenRevolutionSummit is for you!)
  3. There's also a good amount of people that have a solid work-life balance, and I both envy and praise you for that. If you're right where you want to be and stoked on life, then that's exactly what you should be doing.
  4. I think there's also a group that underestimates the work that goes into creating something great, that expands your own personal skill sets and leverages the work of a well-oiled team of varied skill sets and perspectives around you. 

I think the fourth group of people are those who can benefit from looking over this day a bit - it's a little crazier than most days, but it was what it took to get this event website off the ground and meet the demands of my day job. You either plan extremely well, or you do the occasional day like this to make stuff happen that you value to see happen. Sure I misplanned a bit, but I also completed about 3-days worth of "9-5 workloads" in one-ish waking session. If that doesn't sound pleasing to you, then perhaps the entrepreneurship-style life isn't the best route and that's 100% OK. 

To be continued.