Depending on your grad program, we know that you are busy with course work, teaching classes or writing your thesis or dissertation, while also fulfilling life and work responsibilities off campus. We see you and know how hard you are working! Below are time management strategies that we hope will be helpful as you work toward your goals in the coming weeks and months.
Review your time. It’s important to know exactly how you are spending your time, before coming up with a time management plan that works for you. Take note of what your usual distractions are: Facebook? Email? As you develop your schedule, create times where you can turn off those usual distractions. Save them for a break or reward at the end of a productivity session.
Schedule productivity. What times of the day or evening are you the most focused and ready to work, so you can study or write? Block out those times on your schedule, and do manageable chunks of work. For example, focus on reading or work on a paper non-stop for 25 minutes, then take a five minute break. This “Pomodoro” technique has been shown to help people make steady progress towards completing a project (hint: none of us can focus for four hour blocks!).
Set priorities. Time management doesn’t work if you have too much on your plate, so set priorities in order to have better control over your schedule: 1. Block out hard deadlines for things like final projects, conference presentations, funding or internship applications, etc. 2. Make incremental progress on long-term projects, while prioritizing other tasks with immediate deadlines. 3. Take stock; Are there some commitments you need to say “no” to, or “not right now”? It is OK to postpone certain activities or engagements — or even drop a class from a heavy course load — if the timing isn’t right for you.
Develop your system. After you have reviewed your time, identified the best times you are productive and set priorities, set up a calendar or task system that will work for you. Some students work well with online calendaring, while others prefer physical to-do lists. Some students usw both! The goal is to set something up that will help you use your time wisely each day and each week. Sometimes to-do lists can feel daunting, so choose two or three tasks you will accomplish each day, then enjoy the satisfaction of crossing them off your list once they are completed.
Fuel yourself. You are a whole person, not just a graduate student, so (let go of the guilt) and make space each week to spend quality time with friends and loved ones and to do your favorite re-fueling activities. Also, make getting enough sleep a priority as it will improve your focus, help you think creatively and ensure that you are your best self. Finally, when you complete a task (no matter how big or small), reward yourself by watching an episode of your favorite T.V. show, cooking yourself a nice meal, or having friends over for games night. Here are more examples of affordable ways to treat yourself.
Feel free to let us know what time management strategies work for you!
Core Programs—Office of Graduate Student Affairs
UW Graduate School