Monday, May 15, 2017

Doing All the To-Do’s

Fall classes will begin before you know it. So you're prepared, student blogger Daphne P. shares her method for managing time during the semester.

I am the Queen of To-Do Lists! Every week, I type up a long list of the assignments I have to get through for all of my classes. Then, I break that list down into daily lists that populate a monthly calendar. This allows me to look ahead at what’s coming (am I going away for a weekend? Do I have a special event one night?) and smartly pace myself that week. At the same time, I keep a slip of paper posted on the wall above my desk where I jot down tasks unrelated to school: doctor’s appointments, special errands, applications, volunteer meetings, etc. These are things that don’t need to be done immediately, but at some point in the mid- to long-term. I usually have a general timeline in mind but just tackle them as I can, trying to cross a couple off each week. Finally, on especially busy days, when I have more than the usual errand, in addition to my assignments, I sometimes create yet another list for that day. I combine all the things I have to do loosely in the order I expect to do them, making it easy to track my progress throughout the day.

In several ways, the simple act of writing things down provides a huge stress relief for me. Sure, putting something onto a list doesn’t mean that I’ve actually finished the reading or run the errand! However, it does ensure that I won’t forget to do it, and thereby allows me to expend my energy on whatever task I’m currently working on, rather than on trying to remember everything I have to do! Second, separating my school- and non-school-related responsibilities helps me to prioritize and balance; I can see that I should put off a trip to the dry cleaner to finish the problem set due the next day, or plan to pay some bills between readings to give my brain a break. Finally, writing everything down somehow makes it all seem less overwhelming. By first laying out the “big picture” and then breaking it up into daily goals, it makes the amount of work seem, actually, manageable! Indeed, I credit this approach to staying organized with my ability to manage grad school without neglecting the other important things in my life.

I’m sure you’ve all mastered your own time-management strategies by now! For anyone considering adopting mine, I have two final thoughts: first, keep the calendar view of your assignments on your computer (for easy editing!) and allow yourself the flexibility to rearrange things throughout the week. Your statistics problem set might end up taking twice as long as you thought it would or you might find out about an amazing speaker coming to campus; if some of Tuesday’s tasks have to be shifted to Wednesday, so be it. Consider these lists to be (ambitious?) statements of your intentions, not rigid rules. Second, get yourself a good, bright highlighter. Crossing things off those to-do lists is the best, most satisfying part!