As any veteran graduate student who has worked on a thesis or dissertation for twelve or fifteen years can attest, time management can make all the difference between getting nothing done at all or just enough to get by. The team at here at Drown Unbound are no strangers to wrestling with the bugbear of time management ourselves (1). Especially in the interest of helping new graduate students in our community manage their time more wisely, we have collected a selection of tips which we have found useful that we hope may be of some help to others.
- Try getting up half an hour before you go to bed. Little things like this can have an immense payoff in the long run. While you might find yourself increasingly fatigued, you will ineluctably discover that you spend much less time sleeping.
- Don’t waste that time you spend in the shower! Try laminating PDF printouts of scholarly articles so you can read while you lather. This is a great way to get caught up on your reading, and you will be amazed at how refreshing a few minutes in the shower with Hortense Spillers or Peter Elbow can leave you feeling throughout your day (2).
- Some find it helpful to decorate their workspaces with memento mori such as human skulls or full skeletons, preserved organs in glass jars, scythes, or images of Death personified. They can be great reminders of just how little time we all actually have (3).
- Take a tip from our sisters and brothers in Canada and switch to metric time. As a recent study from McGill University has shown, the switch to metric time can save you 25-30 decaseconds per kiloweek. It may not seem like much, but over the course of a semester, that can really add up (4).
- We like to call this one “Uber with a Twist.” If you need to go somewhere—hire an Uber. However, ask the driver to read aloud to you while you do the driving. You’ll avoid spending time in traffic mindlessly, and you’ll be amazed which overlooked textual details of Finnegan’s Wake or Meditation of a Penitent Sinner jump out to you when read aloud by an Uber driver.
- Take a tip from the wise souls of Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs and hedge your time. By bundling all of the time that you spend throughout your day on things for which you “have absolutely no time,” at the end of the week you’ll have time to burn. Of course, you may find by the end of a semester that you actually owe yourself seven academic years. In the short run, however, enjoy the loads of free time you’ll have (5).
We hope that some of these suggestions prove useful as you navigate your workload this semester. If nothing here does the trick, have a look at the Drown Unbound archives for other tips that might work better for you.
1. Wrestling with bugbears is, of course one third of the classic medieval trivium—the other two being catching tigers by the tail and indulging in flights of fancy. While these last two have largely fallen to other branches of the humanities, wrestling bugbears remains firmly entrenched in the study of literature.
2. Of course, you will want to be careful exactly which scholars you choose to take into the shower with you. Some are simply too dry and make it nearly impossible to get clean.
3. We would like to give an unsolicited plug to http://www.scholarskullery.com where we purchase all of our own memento mori. They are aware of graduate students’ limited resources and offer very reasonable prices.
4. Hotchkiss, Gerald and Susan Graham. “’Where’d You Get the Time for That, Eh?’: A Study of the Benefits of Adopting the Metric Day.” Journal of the International Society for Metrification. 32:3, Spring 2016, 147-166.
5. One Lehigh graduate student who tried this method for a week found that she not only had enough time to get three weeks’ worth of work done, but she also had time to read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead as well.