Sometimes I think students are thought to have loads of time to do what they want……..Granted, especially as a post-graduate student, you have the flexibility to organize your own timetable and working hours.
On the one hand, this is a great advantage, as you can fit your research around a timetable that allows you to be the most productive. On the other hand, this gives you a large proportion of responsibility for your work which can be daunting, especially if up to now you have worked to a timetable created for you.
Ultimately, its a balancing act between getting what you need to do done by set deadlines and not going mad in the process……let me explain!
I was inspired to write about time management as I have recently been working out what tasks I need to get done and ideally when they need to be done by. I thought I had loads of time…..that was until I worked out what I needed to do and what time I actually have to do this when I take away courses, conferences, demonstrating and workshops! This panicked me slightly so I have now prioritized my tasks into two main items which I am going to work on right up until the point at which I need to change direction. This has also made me aware of what opportunities I can and can’t commit to, which is good, because I don’t want to stress myself out by saying ‘yes’ to things, only to realize afterwards how awkward this makes things for my own work.
To specifically explain the ‘going mad in the process part’, I have planned things so that I can realistically achieve them in the time frame I have set out. There is no point on planning things to do that you cannot feasibility fit into a single day, week or month. This just leaves you feeling behind, overworked and stressed out. I also think in this situation you don’t give yourself a break when you most need it!
A key problem I had (and sometimes still have!) with planning my own timetable is knowing when enough is enough! I can intend to finish early and then think ‘Ooh, if I just do this as well…..oh and I could just do that’ and the next minute its 6.30pm and I’m drained of all energy. I now stop myself and evaluate the importance of what I am doing and whether it can just wait until tomorrow so that I can finish at a reasonable hour and have a relaxing evening!
Part of the skill to time management is also about being organised- making regular plans, knowing what you are going to do each day, knowing how far away deadlines are and knowing how much time you have to be persistently polite to others to get them to do things you need them to!
In summary, my time management strategy is to plan ahead, decide what works best for you, prioritize your tasks, be realistic and give yourself some time out!