Thursday, September 11, 2008

Manage Your Time: Time Management for Graduate Students

One of the first things that graduate students (and college students too!) learn is that there is never enough time in the day. How can you keep yourself sane when you're overloaded with courses, research, teaching, and a life? Try using time management techniques to get organized. Time management simply involves considering your obligations and making choices about how to use your time. Here are some tips:
Use a school planner or calendar with plenty of space to record assignments, lists, and appointments.
Take the time to plan and organize. Take a few minutes every day to examine your calendar, note your upcoming assignments, and update your lists.
Break large assignments and tasks into their component parts. For example, break a term paper into many smaller and more manageable tasks such as finding a topic, conducting literature searches, gathering articles and books, reading and taking notes, writing an outline, writing the first draft, and revising. Make a list of all tasks required to complete a major assignment. You'll find that crossing items off of the list is quite rewarding!
Set goals and deadlines for yourself. For example, set realistic deadlines for each stage of completing a major assignment (e.g., term paper).
Prioritize your lists and tasks. Take the "big-picture" approach. Look over all that you need to complete and decide what's most important. Which assignment is due first? Which is the most difficult?
Be flexible. While daily to-do lists are wonderful for helping you to organize and prioritize your life, remember that there will always be interruptions and distractions. Try to allow time for them.
Go with your flow. Think about your biological peaks and lows. Are you a morning person? Or are you at your best at night? Plan your day accordingly. Save your most difficult work for the times when you're at your best.
Say "No." Sometimes we take on too much. Whether it's extra courses, job responsibilities, or extracurricular activities, consider how important each is to you before agreeing.
Make use of wasted time. Have you ever noticed how much time you spend commuting, standing in lines, and waiting (for doctors, advisors, etc.)? Carry pocket work to make use of that time that would otherwise be wasted. Carry a short reading assignment or flash cards for studying. Or use the time to write in your planner and organize yourself. Ten minutes here, fifteen minutes later, it all adds up and you'll find that you can get more done.