Graduate school provides opportunities to learn the skills needed to become an innovative thinker or professional in your field. These skills may be acquired through coursework, research, teaching, or internships. New graduate students are often amazed at how much work needs to be completed each day, finding that there is always more to do. As you attempt to balance several roles throughout each week (or even each day), it is important to incorporate strategies to manage your time effectively.
Tips from Students, Staff & Faculty
Your Degree is in Time Management
Choosing What's Important
Carving Out Time for Each Part of Your Life
More Tips for Managing your Time
Create a calendar system and prioritize. Utilize a monthly schedule that captures major papers, assignments, exams, readings, and meetings. Use a weekly schedule to plan which tasks you will complete on what days and during which hours. Learn to prioritize the most important tasks instrumental to your growth and success!
Protect the time you are most alert. You may have days that are 8–12 hours long, even before you are able to complete papers or readings. These days may leave you feeling tired and unable to start doing work. Use these nights to spend time with family or friends. On days that are shorter or you feel most alert, try to use this time to complete work.
Learn how to say “No.” In graduate school, you have so many opportunities to make contributions. Learn to turn down certain opportunities in order to perform well on the tasks most important to you and your long-term goals.
Learn how to read efficiently. Skim chapters by taking notes in the margins, writing four word phrases that capture the main point of the paragraph(s). Take notes on global points of the readings and write down controversial concepts or questions to bring for discussion in class.
Engage in self-care and self-compassion! You may not be able to get done everything you’d like to. Try not to be so hard on yourself or get caught in disappointment. Schedule time for self-care activities and socializing each week to prevent yourself from feeling burnt out.
Revised from “Time Management Tips for Graduate Students,” Learning Assistance Service as the Counselling Center, Division of Student Affairs, University of Maryland.
Additional Time Management Tips
Procrastination Stifles Progress
Technology for Time Management
Work-Life Balance & Integration
Integrating School and Life
The aspiration of “work-life balance” is often recommended in our everyday lives, but this approach can be met with a sense of dread rather than a sense of hope. When the demands of work and life seem to be unending, how can we possibly keep it all in “balance”? In actuality, most of us have more than one set of “scales” in our lives (i.e., graduate school, additional jobs on or off campus, family and community commitments, self-care, etc.), and they can often feel like they are in competition with each other. Below are some possible ways to rethink how we might approach working towards work-life integration rather than “balance.”
Some have talked about “work-life integration.” The idea is that a life worth living is better served if your passions and life commitments are incorporated or expressed in your daily work. This is not to say that we don’t have obligations. This perspective does, however, allow us to ask ourselves, “During any given work week, do I have opportunities to feed my passions and core commitments in some way?”
Sometimes what refuels you is practicing setting clear boundaries between work and play or being able to volunteer with community groups or organizations that have nothing to do with graduate school or a job. These are important projects too and are still integrated in that you are stoking your own fires in service to your work and your engagement in your life.
How do you spend your days? Your weeks? Are you happy with your personal mix of commitments and activities? Is the mix serving you and contributing to your ability to be your best self – whether at work or at home with friends and family? Many of us need to do a mental “check-in” on these questions every few months or so, and when necessary, adjust the mix.
Work Life Integration: The New Norm, Dan Schawbel