On average, I spend about one weekend in Bloomington per month–a travel schedule that requires a lot of planning ahead. As graduate students, one of the most important skills is time management, and this is especially the case when you travel like crazy.
–The first thing to remember is to write everything down. EVERY SINGLE THING. Are there emails you need to remember to respond to? Papers to grade? Groceries to buy? Make a list of all of these things so that you a) don’t forget anything, and b) don’t waste valuable time and brain resources rehearsing a to-do list that is 10 items long.
–Make a schedule, and stick to it. What are you going to do on that plane ride? It’s tempting to zone out, but that’s valuable time to work. Find those pockets of time in your schedule and maximize them. Even though it may not seem like 15 minutes of work is long enough to do anything substantial, four 15 minute segments is a solid hour, which can make a huge difference.
–Be realistic: If you have work that must get done over a weekend that you know you’re going to be out of town, try to leave the easier tasks (like grading a multiple-choice exam or catching up on emails) for that time.
–Work ahead: The only way to avoid falling into the trap of having to schedule work on your travel weekends is to work ahead of time. Try to have as many tasks crossed off your to-do list before you leave so that you won’t feel guilty for taking a break or have a nagging anxiety that you’ll start the week behind.
–Last, but not least, make sure to nourish your Bloomington relationships. Whether you’re in Bloomington for 1 year or 5, you will need a network of people here to connect with. Instead of waiting until the weekends when you’re in town to hang out with those friends, grab lunch or coffee break during the week.