If there was one piece of advice I would offer new grad students, it would be to develop good time management skills. As adults, grad students often have numerous personal and professional commitments that compete for time in their daily routine. The most successful grad students I know set a weekly schedule for themselves and stick to it.
A friend of mine who recently completed her doctoral program kept a weekly calendar where she scheduled her classes, time to study and complete assignments, work out, run errands, spend time with family and pursue her hobbies. Yes, that’s right. She even scheduled her personal time. While at first this might seem a little obsessive,when you think about it, it’s a really effective way to keep track of how you use your time. And time management becomes even more important as you approach the dissertation phase of your grad career, when you have lots of “free” time that is quickly eaten up by the mundane events of daily life, leaving you with little time to work on your dissertation.
Making a schedule and sticking to it is a great way to ensure you use your time wisely.
Welcome to a new year!! A time of many transitions! Why not, sounds catchy. So lets talk about Grad School 101. For starters, think about how these 4 areas will impact you while you’re here at IU pursuing a graduate or professional degree: Listening, Communicating, Networking, and Self. Initially, I thought I would speak on each in this first blog entry–but instead I want you! to consider how each may relate to both present and if possible anticipated experiences . Feel free to reply or simply keep this first post in mind (in other words–reflect a bit on your own) and I will definitely refer back to it the next time I make a post.
PEACE & Have a great semester everyone!!!!
The semester is ending in two weeks. [Insert surprised exclamation of choice here such as "Egad!", "Wha?" or "Whoa!"] Point being that I have a final paper, a manuscript revision, data analyses, and TA duties looming in the next few weeks. Some of you might be thinking, “Pssshh! That’s nothing!” And I am almost inclined to agree with you.
I say almost because I have a serious obstacle in my path. Something that makes the hill-ish pile of work ahead appear to be more akin to a mountain. Not quite Mt. Everest, but definitely up there. So what is this obstacle? It’s a game that some of you might know as Bejewelled Blitz. It’s a fairly popular game on Facebook. According to their Facebook page, there are currently 11,463,184 monthly active users. Sadly, I am one of them. Every Tuesday, when the weekly scores have been cleared, my need to establish an ever higher high score manifests itself. Scratch that. It’s a compulsion at this point. I have to play, and keep playing, till I have a high score that I can be satisfied with. Sigh.
So the next few weeks are going to be tough. Not only do I have a lot of work to do, but I also have to find a way to beat the game quickly enough each week that I will actually have the time to get the work done! So yeah. Egad! However, after five years in graduate school, I have a few tricks up my sleeve such as restricting my access to the internet, going to my favorite spot to work, and imagining how great the summer will be after all the work is completed. But in the meantime I still have some time, right? Enough to play just one game?
Today my sons and I attended our first “Little Five” race in Bloomington and I loved it! Although it was freezing I still enjoyed watching the cyclists power around the field in what seemed to be a never-ending endurance race.
Below is some background information about Little Five (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_500):
The Little 500 (also known popularly as the “Little Five”), is a bicycle race held annually at Bill Armstrong Stadium on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The race was founded in 1951 by Howdy Wilcox Jr., Executive Director of the Indiana University Student Foundation, who modeled the race after the Indianapolis 500, which his father had participated in and won in 1919. Racers compete in teams of four, racing relay-style for 200 laps (50 miles) along a quarter-mile (440 yards) cinder track. Thirty-three teams are selected in qualifications trials to compete in the main race. Money raised by the event goes towards a scholarship fund for working IU students.
Little Five is a unique part of Indiana’s history, as the events surrounding the race “were dramatized in the 1979 Academy Award-winning movie Breaking Away, which depicts a group of Bloomington townies who enter the race as the “Cutters” (from the local Indiana limestone stonecutters) to defeat the favored fraternity team” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_500).
Useful Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_500
My first year as a PhD student, I took some time off for spring break and flew home for 10 days. Although, it was great to see some family and friends, it turned out to be a pretty bad idea. Not only, did I accumulate a ridiculous amount of work, (it took me about a month to catch up and get back on track), but I also manage to upset the rest of the people I did not have time to visit. I learned that, I much rather go home once a year for 3 weeks rather than going twice for 1-2 weeks each.
On the other hand, this year, I decided to treat spring break like any other week. Besides, the nuisance of planning around the campus shuttle reduced time schedule, spring break turn out to be much more productive than I expected and way more productive than any other week. Looking back and contrasting my experience with Ishani’s post “Spring break and the planning fallacy”, it seems that what made my experience such a pleasant success was the fact that my expectations, although very ambitious, were not completely out of reach, I just put together the workload I expect to accomplish on a typical 2-3 week period into one week. I will definitely be repeating this approach next year!!
This past weekend was a combination of amazing experiences that I needed. My parents drove 10 hours to spend half the week with me. As an only child, I often miss my family back home. Yet, to see how proud they are of me in pursuing my doctorate to drive so far, really confirmed to me that I have a great support system. While here, my mother cooked lunch for my coworkers and then hosted a huge, soul-food dinner for me and roughly 20 of my friends. This was by far the most amazing meal I have had in 2011! My friends also enjoyed the time that we shared together playing Taboo and Apples to Apples for hours. Throughout this semester, I have had difficulty successfully balancing my academic and personal life. This weekend was a great transition away from that imbalance and hopefully the rest of the semester will be equally enjoyable.
However, a personal triumph this weekend was my acting debut! The IU School of Education, the Office Multicultural Initiatives, the Department of Theatre and Drama, and the Arts in Education Club presented the play: “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.” Twilight, Los Angeles, 1992 is a groundbreaking piece of “documentary theatre” that explores the consequences of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, sparked in part by the acquittal of police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King. With its immensely diverse cast of characters, drawn from interviews with real people who experienced the riots, the play presents a balanced, 360 degree look at racial tension in The United States. The New York Times called it “an expression of the eternal search for order in an anarchic world” when the play made its debut, and following nearly unanimous critical praise, the play was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
My character was Gina Rae a Los Angeles community Activist. I thoroughly enjoyed practicing for this play and interacting with different people on campus from undergraduate students to staff members throughout this semester. The best part was to have my parents in town to witness the excitement.
This is going to be an amazing break. I am going to get so much done! I have the dual monitor set-up in the study, a great chair, and lots of time. How could I possibly NOT get work done? It’s just going to happen. As a matter of course. I have three manuscripts that need to be completed and I will feel utterly depressed if I let all break go by without finishing them. Bottom-line: I have the trifecta of motivation, means, and opportunity. Nothing is going to stop meeeee!
Damn! Damn! Damn! It’s Saturday. Classes start on Monday. I have completed ONE of the three manuscripts, and the shortest one at that. Where did break go? How did the time vanish? One day I am chilling because it’s only Saturyday and I have a week ahead of me. Next thing I know, the week has blown by and the end of spring break is shaking me hard and screaming in my face. At least I correctly predicted that I would be miserable.
The evil villain “planning fallacy” has struck once again. Like most people, I assumed that I would get a lot more done in the time I had than I actually did. If Kahneman & Tversky were around, they would be shaking their heads and saying, “classic!” I focused only on all the reasons why I would get work done, and forgot about all the temptations that spring break presents. For starters, beautiful weather after a long and miserable winter. Oh, and let’s not forget lots of unscheduled time that ends up staying unscheduled rather than used fruitfully. Sigh. At least I can use this story as an example while teaching the fallacy?
**For more reading on the planning fallacy and what you can to do to avoid falling into its evil clutches: Kahneman & Tversky (1979) and Kruger & Evans (JESP, 2004).
I initially planned to have a restful, “vegetative” spring break, where I would eat, sleep, and write my dissertation–NOT!
I am currently blogging from the National Council on Black Studies (NCBS) conference, which is being held at the Westin Cincinnati Hotel, downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. After I realized that the conference coincided with my “break” I decided to make the best of it. I took a cool three-hour drive up from Bloomington, Indiana, listening to “oldies” and enjoying the sight and sounds of the Midwest.
Today I chaired a panel and tomorrow I will present my own research for members of the academic community here. Additionally, my family will join me tomorrow and we will visit the Underground Railroad and other historical and cultural exhibits in and around Cincinnati.
Hey, life’s about balance, and when you have a gazillion responsibilities that jostle each other for your attention, you just gotta find a way to balance them. Balance away Jiji! Smile.
As a graduate student, one of the first things that might get knocked off your to-do list is working out. After all, does working out really stand a chance against reading for class, analyzing data, grading, and writing (not to mention the basics like eating, bathing, and sleeping!)? At least to me, it always seems like there is always something more important than working out that needs to get done. Nevertheless, I have (re)gained an appreciation for how really, really important it is to maintain a regular work-out schedule.
I realized this when I got back to running after taking a considerable amount of time off (a couple of months in fact!). It took 50 minutes, with an additional 30 minutes for a shower and change, but it was so worth it! I felt great, and not just for the next few hours, but the next couple of days. I woke up the next morning with aches all over, but I had a spring in my step and felt much more alert than usual.
The effects are probably no surprise to any of you. However, it is easy to ignore this easy and crucial step toward a healthier and happier grad life. In fact, it is particularly easy at IU with all the facilities available on campus. The two big recreational sports facilities on campus are the HPER and the SRSC. From swimming pools to tennis courts, from ball courts to indoor running tracks, and even exercise classes, they have something for everyone. If you happen to be the kind of person who needs someone else to push you, they even have personal trainers (see my next post)! So I (and you!) have no excuses! Get sweatin’!
Here in Bloomington, Indiana, we are experiencing ice storms, which cause our roads to be slippery and dangerous, and businesses all over town to slow down or close. I.U. canceled classes today, so I’m home, listening to freezing rain and enjoying the beautifully frozen sights–from a distance.
Since I am too afraid to drive to the library in this weather, I have decided to shut in, grade papers, and work on my dissertation. As my sons’ schools are also closed, I will spend some time with them playing board games, reading, and watching movies.
Although this is not the way I intended to spend my day, I am happy for the break from monotony.
(Photo by Mack Hagood)