As a graduate student, it’s important to use your time wisely to meet deadlines and manage your responsibilities. Developing sustainable time management skills that help you focus on completing your coursework, while also incorporating breaks and downtime are important for achieving your goals. Below are several tips and resources that you can use to help you better manage your time.
- Stick to a schedule - keeping a calendar that includes personal, work, and course related responsibilities is the best way to managing your time. Start by blocking out times where you have fixed obligations like courses and then create flexible blocks for studying and personal tasks. Check out these resources for more help creating schedules:
Time Management Exercise: Calendar Blocking - Northcentral University
Time Management Schedules - California Polytechnic State University
- Set goals - use the SMART system to set reasonable daily and weekly goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Great examples of applying SMART goals to coursework can be found at the links below.
SMART TIPS - University of Chicago
SMART Goals Worksheet - University of Redlands
- Prioritize - Organize your to-do list by level of importance and tackle the most urgent tasks first. If a task feels too large or overwhelming, try breaking it down into smaller sections to make it easier. Completing the most essential tasks first will help you feel more productive. Follow the link below to read more about prioritization:
Three Ways to Think About Prioritization - Oregon State University
- Limit distractions - Remove distractions during times you’ve blocked for coursework. Put your phone away and turn off notifications. If you truly have problems focusing, use tools like Leechblock or SelfControl (Mac only) to block time-wasting sites like Facebook. It’s also important to learn to say no to friends and family if they try to distract you. Let them know you’ve set aside time specifically for studying and you’ll be able to socialize later. See the links below to read more about how to balance your personal life with your studies.
School-Life Balance - John Hopkins University
Stretched Too Thin? Five Graduate Student Work-life Balance Tips - University of Southern California
- Take breaks - a key to staying motivated and productive is allowing time for breaks. Scheduling marathon study sessions can quickly lead to burnout. To prevent this, incorporate short five to ten minute breaks into your study sessions to get up and walk around or do other tasks that take you away from your desk. These quick breaks help you recharge and refocus on your work.
Master Time Management: Making the Most of Breaks and Rewards - University of Guelph
Procrastination and Time Management - Ferris State University
The following methods can be used separately or in combination to help you manage your time.
Work in 25 minute intervals with 5 minute breaks between each interval. Use a timer to keep track of your intervals and after the fourth, take a 15 to 30 minute break. Working in short bursts helps you stay focused on your task and taking regular breaks lets you recharge and stay motivated.
Pomodoro Technique - The Pomodoro Technique
Productivity 101: A Primer to The Pomodoro Technique - LifeHacker
Based around an 8 hour work day, this plan suggests that you spend a few minutes each morning writing a list of tasks for the day and then continuously reassess your productivity to help you stay focused on completing your work. This can be done in three steps.
- Take 5 minutes in the morning to compile a list of everything you must do that day and schedule it into your calendar.
- Take 1 minute at the end of every hour you’re working to reflect on your productivity.
- Take 5 minutes in the evening to review the day by looking at what you accomplished, where you fell off track, and how you could improve your productivity the next day.
An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day - Harvard Business Review Blog
Start each day by narrowing your to-do list to one big task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks. Limiting your to-do list by focusing on only a few tasks per day helps you stay focused on your top priorities and keeps you from feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to accomplish that week.
A Better To-Do List: The 1-3-5 Rule - The Daily Muse
Time Management Calculator - Baruch College
The videos on this page are recordings of presentations given on the St. Augustine, Florida, campus in October of 2014.