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Time Management: Your Best Friend in Grad School

Graduate school really has a way of making you short on time. It's in your best interest to learn some time management skills. Here's why and how to learn!

Graduate school is known to be much more intensive than undergraduate work, so it is important that students develop good time management skills. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed, you should keep track of your time and plan it out on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Managing your time can be easy once you have received your deadlines and ranked your priorities. A calendar is the most obvious choice for people who are looking to manage their time. Most university bookstores offer great academic planners that allow you to plan for the week, month, and year. Get planning with this advice for managing your time.

Get started with the big picture

A good way to begin managing your time is to take a look at any syllabi you may have. Your class syllabus will list all of your assignments for the semester along with the dates each assignment is due. As you read through the syllabus, enter assignments and due dates into your calendar. If you are taking more than one course, be sure to include the class information in your calendar entries so that you don't get your assignments mixed up. Color-coding classes can be helpful, and your calendar entries can be as detailed as you need them to be.

When you're ready to begin prioritizing your assignments and tasks, you should look first at the "big picture" to determine what is due and when. If you need some help, look to your advisor or other professors for assistance. They know what a graduate school course load looks like, and they may have some priceless advice for you on how to handle it. Other, more experienced graduate students could also be a strong source for advice. In addition to indicating when an assignment is due, you may want to make an entry dictating when you would like to begin working on the assignment. Assignments are not the only things that need to be planned for—any research, laboratory time, or grant proposals should also be scheduled into your calendar. A great way of keeping track of your grades is to enter the grade you received for each assignment in the corresponding calendar day.

Related: Why Every College Student Should Keep a Planner

Break down your schedule

For yearly planning, be sure to include any application and financial aid deadlines. Don't forget to mark the beginning and ending dates of each semester, as well as any school closings and breaks. Your yearly plans should be broken into months, while your monthly plans should be broken into weeks. Monthly calendars are ideal for entering paper deadlines, test dates and any appointments. You will definitely have deadlines from your teachers, but you may want to include your own deadlines as well. Weekly calendars can help you keep up with day-to-day assignments and deadlines, as well as study groups. It is useful to carry your weekly calendar with you at all times so that you can refer to it and make any necessary changes.

Conduct daily planning

To-do lists are a great way to keep yourself focused on a daily basis. Some people prefer to make their to-do lists in the evening for the next day, while others prefer to make them each morning. It's often helpful to list your daily tasks in order of priority. Cross off each task once it has been completed-you may be surprised at how rewarding that can be. You may want to consider setting aside some time each day to do schoolwork and research. If you're a full-time student, perhaps you will want to designate a few days a week to work on assignments from each class. Blocking out your time this way, so that you are working on just one course's assignments, on a given day, may provide you with stronger focus and continuity in your studies.

Related: 4 Techniques to Improve Your Time Management

No matter how detailed your self-scheduling is, you should always remember to remain flexible. You'll find some things that you simply cannot plan for, that may cause you to have to rearrange your calendar a bit. And don't be afraid to say no when it comes to taking on additional activities and responsibilities—you're not a superhero!

While you’re learning better time management, make sure to add scholarship searching to your schedule. It’s never too late to find free money to pay for your grad program!

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