When I explain to people what a typical week looks like for me, they tend to be fairly incredulous. “What do you mean you only spend six hours a week in classes? You only spend ten hours a week as a TA? You read two books a week and get paid for it?” When you put it like that, my life as a grad student does sound pretty ridiculous. As far as scheduling goes, I do only spend four to six hours a week in classes, with an additional three hours spent in the class I TA for. On Mondays, I spend four hours volunteering with a local tutoring agency. So, rather than the 40 hour work week, I have a 13 hour week.
With only 13 hours of my week scheduled out, you would think that time management would not be an issue. With so much free time, getting my coursework done should be a breeze. My apartment should be spotless. I should be making wonderful three-course dinners every night. And yet somehow, my time manages to disappear all too quickly.
I’ve always been the type of person that finds life easier when I have a busier, set schedule. The time I spent student teaching, with my time very strictly laid out, was some of the most productive, stress-free of my life. The problem with having a lot of “free time” that should be spent doing work is that nothing seems urgent until the last minute. That play I have to read by this Tuesday? I haven’t started it yet, because I have all Tuesday morning to read it! The thesis proposal that’s due this Thursday? I have absolutely no time commitments on Wednesday, so I’ll get it done then! It’s easy to justify putting off work because I have so much time.
And sometimes, too much becomes not enough due to lack of self-motivation and independent structuring. Part of the reason I decided to volunteer for a double shift at tutoring on Mondays is because I have no commitments on Mondays, and I needed something to eat up some of my procrastination time. By taking away those four hours, I was putting more of a time pressure on myself. I’m not entirely sure that it’s working yet.
So what’s the message here? Make sure that almost every minute of every day is planned out so you don’t have time to procrastinate? Maybe. I know that my brother was at his most productive when football season was in full swing and in competition with his leading role in the school musical. I was at my most productive when I was completing my 40+ hour a week student teaching placement and balancing grad school applications and club leadership positions.
I’m currently trying to figure out how to make not having a set schedule work out for me. I’ve started making my bed in the mornings so that I’m not tempted to climb back in it and take a mid-afternoon nap. I try to get out of my pajamas by noon every day. I’ve been trying to commit to leaving the house every day, even if I don’t necessarily have to. Now that my computer is fixed again, I’m going to spend more set time in the library getting projects done. I’ve already started using my day planner again, and I open my blinds rather than sitting in the semi-darkness.
What are some ways that you’ve adapted to not having a set schedule?