I know you're super busy with grad school and writing a book (!) and everything, so I was wondering how you maintain your productivity and if you have any tips in that regard. If you feel comfortable, would you be able to tell us how you break down your free time (like the time not spent actually in class or at work)? I'm a grad student too and I'm really struggling to keep up with everything I have to do :/
Sure! I kind of went out of the frying pan and into the fire the first time I tried grad school, so this time around I’ve set up some non-negotiables when it comes to my time management so that I’m not working without any rest. A few of them are as follows:
- Absolutely no work on Saturdays. Each semester I pick one day a week where I don’t even so much as check my email, and I spend the day resting on the couch or writing for fun. Last fall that day was Thursday, and the past two semesters it has been Saturday.
- No checking/answering email after 8:30pm. Ideally I aim for 7pm, but if I have a late class, the rule is flexible.
- I keep a strict sleep schedule of 11pm-7am. I never sacrifice sleep to work.
- I’ve committed to certain social activities every week that I attend unless absolutely drained. These include church on Sunday mornings, Bible study group on Thursdays, and Happy Hour every other Wednesday. I consider this commitments because it’s necessary for me to be social for my own well-being, and so I try to keep to these times every week. I treat them as importantly as my school and work.
- I make sure I give myself breaks for fun in the middle of work sessions. For example, I’ll grade 6 exams and then reward myself with an episode of Parks & Rec.
- I give myself permission to do dumb things in my free time. I have picked up Candy Crush again recently. But I figure I put so much brainwork into my everyday that I deserve something mindless now and then.
What it mostly comes down to is that I value my free time and make sure that I’m regularly observing it and that I make it just as important to me as my work time. It’s not “optional.” If there’s work that doesn’t get done or a book that doesn’t get read, that’s simply the way it has to be. As it is, I work at least 40 hours a week (sometimes probably closer to 50), so whatever off-time I have is well-earned.
I hope you found this helpful! Everyone needs to find their own stride in grad school, but my mantra is this: “What Sarah Does is not the same thing as Who Sarah Is.” And this helps keep me from losing myself in the demands of graduate school. Best of luck in your program!