1. First of all, you need to have a mindset about your current job. It should be treated as a temporary phenomenon in your life. Assume that it is just a job, it is not something where you want to spend your entire life. Your passion and that burning desire for civil services should be your guiding criteria at your work place. So, treat your job as it is: It is secondary to your preparation. By this I don’t mean that you become too negligent at work. That should not be the case and an aspiring civil servant should never do that. You should have that adequate level of efficiency and professionalism and you should be able to complete all your deliverables within time. Don’t run after appraisals. Even if you get a bad one, it is not the end of your life. A little sacrifice is needed for a noble cause.
2. I suggest that you keep your UPSC preparation a secret affair. I understand that this is applicable mostly to private sector as in public sector one might have to submit NOC and hence revelation.
3. Plan your time up to minutes and in some cases up to seconds also (I actually calculated how much time it takes to remove a laced shoes and a slip on shoes once I come back from office. I know it does not make much sense, but those who fight for seconds will look for all possible savings they can and that’s what I did. By changing from laced shoes to slip-on shoes I saved 30-40 seconds)
4. In initial years of preparation when the focus is on building foundation one will have to work extra hard. I remember waking up at 4 AM and reading for 2-3 hrs before leaving for office by 8 AM. So you have to show extra discipline and hardwork in initial years.
5. It gets difficult to read in evening sometimes due to office fatigue and stress. So set a manageable target in evening, don’t be too greedy.
6. Mornings are best for working professionals as chances of getting disturbed in morning is almost zero. So plan your sleep cycle accordingly. It is better to read with a fresh mind in the morning
7. Don’t wait for hardcopy of newspaper. Start reading pdf copies of newspaper (The Hindu/India express). These are easily available in various telegram groups.
8. Avoid reading on office computers, avoid discussing UPSC topics with colleagues. Stay committed to your work. You can read some news or some articles on your mobile though but do that during tea breaks or during lunch hours. I used to skip lunches and used to read something in that break. You see, you got to be hungry to qualify UPSC :p
9. You have to avoid social gatherings and office parties on purpose. It is just one of the sacrifices you have to make for UPSC.
10. Avoid confrontation at work place as much as you can. A disturbed mind is not good for preparation. You need to be calm as rock to keep your preparation on track.
11. Be respectful and kind: everyone you meet is fighting a different battle. Help someone at workplace if you can. I don’t know how it works but positive energy and blessings find a way to help you.
12. Use telegram extensively as it is faster, saves time and helps in network learning.
13. Use evernote or other online note making platform for making notes. As a working aspirant it is crucial to have an accessible note making platform in any situation. (I have shared my notes at the end of this write up, will give you an idea on how to use evernote).
14. Don’t take decisions in haste if you face any setbacks at any stage of exam: pre, mains or interview. Give a week time and get back to preparation again.
15. Quitting job is not really a solution. Take it as a challenge and assume that you might have to work in even harsher situations and deliver more difficult targets once you become a civil servant. Such a thinking will bring that positive boost to complete you assignments in your current job. It is important to balance UPSC preparation and your professional responsibility.
All the best.