Managing Your Time in Graduate School
Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated September 2010
Graduate school is known to be much more intensive than undergraduate work, so it is important that students develop good time management skills. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed, you should keep track of your time and plan it out on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. You may already feel short on time, but it is worth it to set some aside to plan out the year or two ahead.
Managing your time can be easy once you have received your deadlines and ranked your priorities. A calendar is the most obvious choice for people who are looking to manage their time. You can use a date book, a computer, or in some cases, even your cell phone. Some cell phones have built-in calendars that allow you to set alarms to remind yourself of what you need to accomplish. Most university bookstores offer great academic planners that allow you to plan for the week, month and year.
A good way to begin managing your time is to take a look at any syllabi you may have. Your class syllabus will list all of your assignments for the semester along with the dates each assignment is due. As you read through the syllabus, enter assignments and due dates into your calendar. If you are taking more than one course, be sure to include the class information in your calendar entries so that you do not get your assignments mixed up. Color-coding classes can be helpful, and your calendar entries can be as detailed as you need them to be.
When you are ready to begin prioritizing your assignments and tasks, you should look first at the "big picture" to determine what is due and when. If you need some help, look to your advisor or other professors for assistance. They know what a graduate school course load looks like, and they may have some priceless advice for you on how to handle it. Other, more experienced graduate students could also be a strong source for advice.
In addition to indicating when an assignment is due, you may want to make an entry dictating when you would like to begin working on the assignment. Assignments are not the only things that need to be planned for-any research, laboratory time or grant proposals should also be scheduled into your calendar. A great way of keeping track of your grades is to enter the grade you received for each assignment in the corresponding calendar day.
Break it down
For yearly planning, be sure to include any application and financial aid deadlines. Don't forget to mark the beginning and ending dates of each semester, as well as any school closings and breaks. Your yearly plans should be broken into months, while your monthly plans should be broken into weeks.
Monthly calendars are ideal for entering paper deadlines, test dates and any appointments. You will definitely have deadlines from your teachers, but you may want to include your own deadlines as well. Weekly calendars can help you keep up with day-to-day assignments and deadlines, as well as study groups. It is useful to carry your weekly calendar with you at all times so that you can refer to it and make any necessary changes.
To-do lists are a great way to keep yourself focused on a daily basis. Some people prefer to make their to-do lists in the evening for the next day, while others prefer to make them each morning. It is often helpful to list your daily tasks in order of priority. Cross off each task once it has been completed-you may be surprised at how rewarding that can be.
You may want to consider setting aside some time each day to do schoolwork and research. If you are a full-time student, perhaps you will want to designate a few days a week to work on assignments from each class. Blocking out your time this way, so that you are working on just one course's assignments, on a given day, may provide you with stronger focus and continuity in your studies.
However, no matter how detailed your self-scheduling is, you should always remember to remain flexible. You will find some things that you simply cannot plan for, that may cause you to have to rearrange your calendar a bit. And do not be afraid to say "no" when it comes to taking on additional activities and responsibilities-you're not a superhero!
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