As a recently graduated (AHHH!!) full-time grad student working full-time and a part-time research assistant (I know – it’s a mouthful), I can confidently say I have learned the best tips to manage a busy schedule and still remain (somewhat) sane haha.
I started grad school in the fall of 2020 after graduating from undergrad in May 2020. Let me tell you – that was a whirlwind of a time. It was quite the adjustment and now looking back I’m like did I really just do that???
It’s crazy to look back and see how far I’ve come in just two years. I learned so much during this time, especially time management and how to healthily balance all my responsibilities.
As your internet big sis, I’m here to tell you that you can absolutely manage this life adjustment and it is only going to make you stronger.
Keep reading for my best time management tips for grad students working full time.
1. Establish a morning and night routine
The first step to managing time while working full time as a student is making a routine. Establishing a morning and night routine is essential to thriving under this kind of pressure and maintaining your mental health.
My night routine is sacred to me. Once the clock turns 9pm, I put my phone down, take a shower, do skincare, read a book, journal, and cuddle with Chai. 9pm to 10pm is my time to unwind from the day. I can look forward to this throughout the day and know that no matter what happens I have this time to myself.
More on routines and scheduling later…
2. Let go of perfectionism
This is one I STRUGGLE with, but I’m learning to ditch perfectionism. With my schedule, I didn’t really have an option so that has been helpful haha. Trying to get everything “perfect” can mean you take longer to produce results.
Things just need to get done. As hard as that can be to hear for people who struggle with perfectionism, sometimes it is better to get it checked off your list.
I’ve been working on being more efficient and although it’s hard, it’s not impossible. In order to work on this you have to actively be working to make a change.
Here are some things you can do to ditch perfectionism.
- Acknowledge that you are doing it.
- Positive self-talk. Tell yourself things like, “I just have to get it done”, and “this doesn’t have to be perfect”.
- Adjust your standards. If you produce quality work at 120%, get that to 100%, then 80%. It’s okay to give yourself a break and accept that everything won’t be done perfectly.
- Give yourself less time to complete things. Parkinson’s Law is the theory that work will expand to fill the time allotted for its completion.
3. Time block your days
Time blocking is a time management method that asks you to divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task, or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks.
This is a screenshot I took from my calendar of a past week to show you how I time block my weeks.
I started using Plan to time block. It connects to Google Calendar so it’s an easy way to plan and have that overlap with your calendar.
I also LOVE Notion. I used it for a while, but I just couldn’t keep up with it. The aesthetic-loving person I am, I had to make everything perfect (are we surprised?? 🙄). Now that I graduated (!!!!!) I can see myself using Notion again since I love how it’s customizable and unique to you.
4. Get used to saying no
This one is difficult, especially for people-pleasing people like me 🙃.
I’m still not the best at this since I feel SO bad for some reason if I say no to anyone. You have to get used to putting yourself first which can be uncomfortable sometimes. There really just isn’t another way to get everything done that you need to unless you spend less time going out with friends or seeing family.
That might be hard to hear, but it’s only temporary and will be VERY worth it in the end. Putting your head down and grinding for a couple of years is nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Your loved ones will understand what you’re doing and respect that you have to do what you have to do. I’m not saying to never do anything fun but minimizing it will help with balancing time.
5. Prioritize your responsibilities
The key to make working full time in grad school is prioritizing responsibilities. Make a list of things of everything you have to do from most important to least important. You could do this on a weekly or monthly basis.
Reference your list to remind yourself of the most important projects or tasks that need to be completed. It will help tremendously in filing things in your mind and decrease overwhelm.
Someone once told me responsibilities are like rubber and glass balls. Less important things are rubber and the crucial things are glass. You are juggling so much that something has to give sometimes. Knowing what responsibilities are rubber and glass will help in making sure the most important things (glass balls) don’t fall. It’s okay to let rubber balls fall.
I hope these tips help you manage working full-time in grad school. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy, but it is worth it. As time goes on you will get better and better at managing your time and responsibilities.
I’m rooting for you!!
xo – Christina