3 midterms, 1 paper, several group projects, 2 speeches, various interviews, plus normal everyday coursework. Sound familiar? If your work load looks anything like mine, this pretty much sums up your next two weeks. Major yikes. That doesn’t even include other priorities like keeping up with email, checking the Hub, Fisher Connect, My Fisher, Carmen, and other websites, keeping tabs on internship opportunities, going to the gym, putting in hours at work, making time for a significant other, etc., etc. That reminds me… I should probably give my mom a call to let her know I am still alive.
Man, it can pile up fast, can’t it?! If I surveyed my classmates on the toughest part of grad school so far, I wonder how many would consider “time management” the biggest challenge. For me, that has been something I’ve really had to focus on. Without a clear schedule, daily to-do lists, and color coded binders and notes (no, I’m not kidding)… I’d be lost. Everyone has their own time management style, but the trick is, no matter what your system is, KEEP WITH IT.
If you haven’t yet mastered your own time management groove, then here are a few tips that might help you along the way:
1. Figure out where you are losing time. One of the best things you can do is keep a journal of your time allocation for a day. Literally log your activities and how much time you spend on them. Then, at the end of the day, go back and see how much time was devoted to non-priorities. This exercise was an eye opener for me. Now I know I shouldn’t check Facebook, ESPN, or MSNBC when I have other priorities. Sometimes I even turn my wireless router off when I have an assignment that doesn’t require the internet.
2. Get a calendar – any calendar! I prefer Outlook only because I’m comfortable with it, but many of my friends use G-Cal or other tools to help them stay organized. Every day I block off time to work on certain projects and set reminders to make sure I’m on task. At 7:45 this evening I had a reminder to write a blog post – and here I am! The trick with this is sticking to your schedule. If you fall behind, it is hard to make that time up!
3. Learn to say no. (Or at least to prioritize.) Some of my classmates have been commenting on my ghost-like tendencies over the past couple of weeks. While I’d love to socialize as often as possible, I’ve learned that I have to say “no” to going out sometimes. It’s a bummer, but it saves me freak out moments the night before a big assignment is due. If you have a hard time saying “no,” then the best thing to do is prioritize. For example, I promised myself I’d go with my classmates for $3 Brazenhead burgers on Wednesday nights, and I’ve gone every week! Remember to give yourself breaks and reward yourself for your hard work.