Graduate school, and all the deadlines that come with it, can definitely catch up to you. Graduate students have many concurrent projects and that is likely to continue throughout your career. It is easy to get burnt out or procrastinate, but the reality is that budgeting your time is just as important as budgeting your money!
As past and current graduate students ourselves, Quad-Fi has put together some tips to help you manage your time while in grad school:
- Schedule your time
First thing’s first: get a calendar set up (paper or virtual), because it will be impossible to make it through graduate school without one. Google Calendar has a ton of features that can help make you more productive, such as separating different areas of your life. While assignment deadlines and academic events should definitely be included, it is also important not to forget to schedule the basics—and by this we mean buying groceries, exercising, etc.
Although you don’t need to put down every aspect of your life on this calendar, people tend to underestimate the time that tasks take to complete. Have you ever wondered where the last few hours disappeared, even though all you did was clean your room? This culprit is called the planning fallacy, and the best way to get around it is by taking your basic tasks into account.
- Know your best working times
Are you an early bird or a night owl? It’s time to decide which times in the day you work most efficiently and stick to them.
Setting alarms is another great way to make the most of your work time. Once you find regular times in your day when you feel like you can work uninterrupted, schedule tasks that require concentration during these times.
- Team up with your peers
Graduate school is hard enough without competition, and some of the friendships that you make in graduate school will last a life time. Plus, your classmates are also your future colleagues, so why wouldn’t you want to collaborate with them?
Brainstorming, reviewing materials or reading with your peers can help hold you accountable to your goals, help you get a second opinion on your work, and help you be productive even when you don’t feel like it at all.
- Give up on perfection
It’s often hard to stop working on a project until it’s absolutely perfect in your eyes. However, if you have a jam-packed week of deadlines, it can be important to know when to stop and move on to your next task.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not you can wrap up your latest project:
- Do you feel that you’ve put sufficient time and effort into your work?
- How many hours have you spent reviewing/editing/checking for grammar?
- Are you simply reading your work over and over again while looking for problems?
- Overall, are you satisfied with handing this project in to your professor?
- Have incentives for yourself
Lastly, it is important to maintain a well-rounded lifestyle no matter how busy you are. After a long week of hard work, you should reward yourself with incentives such as spending time with your friends, spending time outdoors, watching a movie, or whatever it is that you enjoy.
We have found that trying to deprive yourself of activities that you enjoy leads to overall fatigue and burnout. You have to accept that you cannot study all the time and that it is good to balance your life with other things. Also, make sure you get enough sleep (napping doesn’t count!)