Managing Your Time As A Grad Student

Serina Herron-Smith, MA SID'24

February 13, 2024

Serina Herron Smith headshotOkay everyone, gather ‘round. I’m here again to help you navigate some of the most challenging parts about graduate life. The subject? Time management. This is serious because your success largely depends on your ability to manage your time and use it wisely to finish assignments as well as ensure that you’re still practicing self care and making time for friends and family. Contrary to popular belief you CAN and SHOULD have some remnants of a social life. 

Competing deadlines

As much as we all fantasize about our teachers having a group chat where they space out assignments and decide who’s assigning what on which day, they don’t. They have to do their job and we have to do ours and competing deadlines is just something that comes with the territory. My advice to you? Start early. When you know you have two competing assignments coming up, start to block off time during your week to dedicate to each assignment. If it’s a paper, start your preliminary research early so you can have time to synthesize the information. Consider highlighting the texts or print it out and have a physical copy. Whatever way works best for you to internalize the information, use it. I cannot stress enough that you need to use a planner or a calendar to keep track of your assignments! 

Work related stress

As a human with anxiety I completely understand getting stressed about assignments. Some people are capable of and prefer to wait until the last minute to get work done because for them, the time crunch is enough to spur them into action and produce some of their best quality work! But for a lot of people (myself included!) The best way to counteract stress is by preparing early and proofreading. For me, when I know weeks ahead that there’s a final paper or assignment, I start my research as soon as possible. This doesn't have to be annotating the text for hours, it can be as simple as just finding some articles on the subject and seeing what catches your eye. And again, I cannot stress this enough, use a calendar! Visually seeing when things are due so you can plan ahead is BEYOND helpful. Half the stress is not knowing where to start, but if you can just start by jotting down your ideas, the assignments will write themselves in no time. 

Scheduling free time

As your certified friend and mentor (self proclaimed…) it’s so important that you continue to live your life. Whether it’s drinks once a week with your cohort, or a quick trip to a museum in Boston (see my previous blog posts), it’s important that you allow yourself time to wind down and take a breath. For me that looks like daily yoga/pilates and one designated day on the weekend where I refuse to check my email or work on any assignments. People joke about dating during grad school and that it’s hard to maintain a relationship, but if you’re in one, make time for your partner! Date nights, zoom calls, etc are all very cute. And if you're not, don’t let anyone lie to you, everyone here is on Hinge. My final word of advice? Get some decent sleep. I know pulling an all-nighter will definitely happen to you but don't make it a habit. Classes are 3 hours long and if you’re working on just a few hours of sleep not only will your grades suffer but your health will too. This degree isn’t worth it if you’re hurting yourself in the process. See your friends, watch some movies, and eat yummy food! You deserve to be here and you deserve to rest.