“Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time. Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines.” Time – Pink Floyd
Time. The older I get the more precious it is. If I were to make a list of grad school difficulties I would have to put time (or more accurately, the lack of time) at the top of the list. Of course this is hardly unique to graduate school. We often hear our friends and relatives reminisce and say, “Where has the time gone?” or “I didn’t have enough time to (insert activity here).” It seems to be a constant struggle and a balancing act to manage tasks and obligations with self-care and things that bring joy. So what are we to do? Well I’m hardly one to give advice on time management but I can tell you what I attempt to do to find balance. First, I schedule blocks of time for everything. If something is a priority it has to get scheduled or else time spent doing other things will bleed over into time that I naively thought would be free later. Once an event is scheduled, my next challenge is to enforce the schedule. This is especially hard for me to do for projects that are so large that there seemingly is no end and thus cannot be simply crossed off the to-do list (although they can be broken down into smaller tasks I suppose). In this past semester, I often had dissertation time scheduled each day; however, there were roughly a thousand other obligations with more recent deadlines that kept sneaking their way into the time allocated for dissertation....therefore dissertation time was postponed. Perhaps avoidance played a role here too....but that's a topic for another post maybe. I am currently trying to stick to a schedule more strictly by having others hold me accountable (shame/pride are powerful motivators). It was suggested to me to use a stopwatch while working and this has helped me monitor just how much time I’m actually spending working versus “working” while wasting time being distracted. As I’ve advanced through grad school and the stress level has increased, I’ve also found it increasingly important to schedule time to relax. As lame as it sounds to have to schedule leisure time, I find this to be very important to me. There were many weekend days where I would try to work intermingled with fun here and there. What would ultimately happen is I would not enjoy myself because even when I was having leisure time, the dark cloud of school work was always dampening my experience and following me everywhere I went. My mind was elsewhere. I was not practicing present moment awareness. More recently I have tried to restructure my weekends so that one day is a work day and one is COMPLETELY OFF. And when I’m off.....I’m totally off and engaged in whatever non-school related things I’m doing. Being in the moment is sometimes hard, but it's a skill that I’m realizing is increasingly important to practice day after day. I find life more fulfilling when I’m submersed in the experience. If I’m working on a manuscript I want to be completely focused on working on it. If I’m at a winery in Pamona enjoying dinner with my wife and friends, I want my entire mind to be there too. I can’t control time (oh if only I could...), but I do have some control over making my time more meaningful. This is a work in progress for me. It’s easier said than done, but worth the effort.