As graduate students, there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Many of us have families and responsibilities beyond classes and coursework, and it seems we can never get ahead of the ever-growing list of tasks. Everyone manages their time differently, but here are five tips to get you started. 

to do list
  1. Use a To-Do List.
    To me, there is nothing more satisfying than marking off items from a to-do list. Seeing all that I’ve already accomplished gives me the motivation to continue on with other tasks. However, when you first start a to-do list, it can seem overwhelming. To avoid getting burned out before I even begin, I like to break my to-do lists up into shorter, more easily completed lists. If I need to do a lot of housework, I will write down everything I need to do in the kitchen, and then what needs to be done in the living room – making the large, Mount Everest sized to-do list of housekeeping into two shorter, much more manageable lists. 
  1. Plan Ahead.
    Planning ahead can be applied in most situations, from making lunches to working on projects. When planning ahead for classwork, I think about all of the steps I have to take to complete my work, and then do a few steps each day. For example, if I have a paper due in a week, I will take one day to find sources, then work on the introduction and body the next day, and then finish the conclusion and reference page. If I end up finishing ahead of schedule, great! And if I find that I have to push back on writing that conclusion a day later than planned, I’ve got the time to do so, and don’t have to worry about writing a 5-10 page paper in one night. 
  1. Use a Calendar.
    I know this is not an original tip, but I have found it to be the most helpful. Seeing my month on one page helps me to make my to-do lists, and plan out what I need to do and when. However, it is important to find a calendar that works for you. While I love my color-coded pens and endless pages of themed calendar pages, my roommate prefers to use TimeTree, an online calendar that has a connected app for the phone. In it, you can share your calendar with friends and also have more than one calendar set. My roommate has a “school” calendar, a “social” calendar, and a “personal” calendar to keep track of her time. 
  1. Take a Break.
    Especially when working on large projects, it is important to take small, frequent breaks, and to give yourself a moment to breathe. It can be very easy to hole yourself up in your workspace and try to get through a term paper in one sitting. Instead, work on one assignment for 20-30 minutes, and then take a 5 or 10-minute break. When I have a lot of projects due in the same week, I focus on one, then use my break time to unload the dishwasher or make my bed. It is important to move around and give your eyes a break from looking at the computer screen. 
  1. Do Bigger Tasks First.
    Do not fall into the trap of doing small projects before large ones. Instead, focus your attention and energy on that large project, whether it be the laundry that is slowly taking over your room or that paper that’s due in three days. You can do the smaller tasks after, with the knowledge that there is nothing major looming on the horizon. 

Don’t be afraid to experiment with time management tips, and remember that what works for one person does not always work for everyone. If you find that you cannot keep up with a calendar if your life depended on it, then don’t waste time trying to do so. Move on and try something else. Maybe a time management app or online calendar would be better suited for you. There are a thousand different ways to manage your time, you just have to find the one that works for you. Luckily, there are also a thousand different articles and blogs you can look through that all have great suggestions.

Here are five articles filled with great time management tips to get you started:

Forbes: Manipulate Time With These Powerful 20 Time Management Tips

Work Smarter, Not Harder

5 Essential Time Management Techniques 

5 Remarkably Easy Time Management Tips

Easy Time Management Tips

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