Grad Student How-To: Time Management & Juggling It all
As a grad student juggling work, school, and serving as co-president of my student organization, I often get asked, “how do you do it?” To be honest, I’m never quite sure how to answer, so I decided to really dig deep and figure out how I am able to survive grad school while still managing to get 7 hours of sleep a night and eat three meals a day. I came up with these five effective ways I manage grad school, and how you can too!
Step 1: Treat It Like a Job
One of the pitfalls many graduate students get trapped in is having large amounts of free time and not managing that time properly. Many students may also work a part time job (like me), but still have days where they only have one class. One of the things that has helped me the most to succeed is to treat graduate school like a job, and stick to a schedule. Even on the days I’m not working in the office 9-5, I keep to the same schedule. I wake up every morning at the same time, and head to school even if I don’t have work or class. I use that time to get my readings and school work done, so that I am not stuck reading until 12 a.m. By keeping to a regular schedule, I avoid sleeping in and losing out on time I could be working.
Step 2: Get a Planner
This may sound like something I shouldn’t have to say, but having a planner is seriously so important! Find a planner that will work well for you. I use a planner that breaks my day down hour by hour.
I sit down at the beginning of the week and look at what I have coming up. Once I have blocked off time for work, school, and other meetings and events, I am able to see where I can schedule in study time. Organization helps to reduce my anxiety about the things I need to get done, and helps me set the pace for each week.
Step 3: Break It Down
If you are in the humanities, like I am, you probably have loads of reading for each class. I get assigned around 500 pages + of reading a week. Instead of saving all of my readings for the day or two before class, I try and do a little bit each day. If I know I have 200 pages to read, I’ll read 50 pages over four days. This can be applied to other disciplines as well! By setting smaller goals, the task at hand seems (and is) more manageable.
Step 4: Smarter Not Harder
Everyone studies differently, figure out what works best for you! If you know you don’t study well with friends, try and set boundaries for when and where you study. Learn what note taking system and reading strategies work best for you, and stick to it!
I also keep my work easily accessible on my iPad so that I can do readings on my lunch break or on the subway. The cloud is your best friend! This also goes for tasks outside of school! Don’t head to Trader Joe’s after work at the busiest time and waste two hours grocery shopping. Know when the best time for laundry, grocery shopping, etc. is, so that you can maximize your time!
Step 5: Self Care
Last but certainly not least, self care is key!! If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you will not have enough energy for any other part of your life. I make sure to plan one super fun thing at least every other week, which helps get my mind out of school and work mode. I’ve done things around the city like attending a taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live, seen a broadway play, and had game nights with friends. I also make sure to give myself a little time at home to catch up on my favorite shows and have a cup of tea!
It’s so easy to get caught up in the chaos of graduate school and forget to breathe, take it easy, and take some time for yourself.
There you have it! By following these five steps you can both survive and thrive through graduate school!