Lorelei Lester: Considering Time and Juggling
Guest post by Lorelei Lester, a new graduate student in History. She'll be writing these posts on a biweekly basis.
I seem to be in a very interesting place right now. Technically, I’m not a grad student yet but I feel like I’ve been a grad student since the beginning of the term. My supervisor has me doing what he calls a reading and writing ‘program’ which started May first and will go to the end of August. Since that started it has felt like the grad school journey has officially begun. The ‘program’ is meant to prepare me for graduate studies and get me started assembling my bibliography.
Another thing I have been working on for the term is time management. My professors have told me that this is an extremely important part of being a grad student. Believe me I need a lot of work in this area. I was deeply relieved and grateful when I found out that tenured professors have to learn this skill too. Relieved to find out she wasn’t born with a special talent for getting things done on time and properly cited. Grateful she shared this with me and removed some of the burden and fear of feeling completely inadequate to the challenges of graduate level academia.
So, learning about time management involves keeping a journal of what I do throughout the day. What did I do? How long did I do it? What can be done to shorten the time it takes to get it done? Don’t forget to schedule time to enter things into my calendar and set my phone to remind me to do things. If I didn’t get something done where could I have changed things in my day that would have allowed me to get it done?
When I remember to keep the journal it is very useful for teaching me about time management. I kept it faithfully for the first three weeks then started to skip days when I wasn’t doing any homework or actually had time that needed managing. Then when I had to deal with moving I just got way too busy to deal with keeping a journal of what I was doing. It turns out that when I have more things to do I have less time to deal with keeping a journal and managing my time. Argggh!
Anyway, I have to get back to journaling my time everyday and scheduling time to put things in my calendar and programming my phone to remind me to do things. It is a very good idea and technique to help learn about what I do with my time. Finding out why a lot of it seems to be missing at the end of the day is very helpful.
Moving is another things that has occupied a great deal of my time this term. I knew I was going to move closer to or actually onto campus for graduate school. I was hoping it would happen at the beginning of May or the end of August. Neither of those target times happened.
During the first week of May a neighbor who knew I was planning to move offered me a move-out incentive. Since I knew that it was time for me to relocate, I felt compassion for her plight, and she would pay for a storage locker for my stuff I took the offer…for the end of May. Up to this point I was quite happy with my academic schedule and course load. Three courses, 11 credits, plus my reading and writing program no problem. Since I had helped my best friend clear out her apartment to move out of the country in January I thought I knew what I was in for. It's one thing to know something with your brain, its quite another to actually have to do it.
I started de-cluttering and purging stuff from my apartment and storage locker right away. It made sense to do this before actually packing. I had been living in that studio apartment for five years. It’s amazing how much stuff can accumulate in five years. Every day before or after going to my classes or to campus to study I sorted through all my stuff. Keep or discard? Recycle or trash? Thrift store, neighbor or family? Where did it all come from and why had I kept it? It seemed to be endless.
There was also my deck garden. While my apartment was small the deck was about the same size. As a budding urban gardener my deck was filled with plants and gardening paraphernalia all of which had to go. I think that was the saddest part of this episode actually throwing away plants and other gardening stuff. The only plants that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away were the ones that have names Emilyne and Mark. I found a foster home for them.
When the majority of the de-cluttering seemed to be done I got some boxes from a liquor store and started to pack in between the de-cluttering, classes, and the ‘program.’ I managed to do this without interrupting my academic schedule for a couple of weeks. Then one evening I actually started to fall asleep while making a comment in class. I knew it was time to let something go. Since time before actually moving was rather short I decided to focus on that and let the academics go to the way side.
Yeah, I’m still paying for that one. Did I mention that I still hadn’t secured a new place to live? That’s a whole other story.
Lets just say that my meager time management skills have been tested over these past few months. Skills take time to be honed. I’m still working on that. For those of you who are excellent time and task jugglers this might sound rather ordinary but for me things are flying in all directions, landing in the wrong place, being dropped (mostly on my head or toes) and lost in the shuffle. I’ve missed several deadlines and the ‘program’ is lagging far behind schedule but I’m still here.
One thing I have learned throughout all of this is self-compassion. I’m not a crack time management guru or a stellar academic and no matter how hard I try there is always something that I forgot to do. This doesn’t make me a bad person and it doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve love. So I smile when I hear the birds singing in the morning and I enjoy my morning coffee.
It's time to start another day of juggling that’s one skill I am determined to master.