From PhD Comics. Copyright 1997-2016, Piled Higher and Deeper Publishing, LLC.
From PhD Comics. Copyright 1997–2016, Piled Higher and Deeper Publishing, LLC.

The semester is in full swing — and if you’re like most grad students, you’re probably juggling all kinds of different commitments. If your teaching, research, career planning, family commitments, and health and wellness are all competing for top priority, you’re not alone.

Consider trying out these strategies from a recent GradPro workshop — and you can always schedule a consultation with the Professional Development Resource Coordinator if you’d like some one-on-one help taming your overgrown calendar.

1) Create an Eisenhower Matrix each semester to keep “important but not urgent” goals on your radar

Many of your important commitments probably have built-in accountability. For instance, things like lesson planning, reading for classes, or caring for sick family members are urgent and important.

But some of the most important goals you’ll encounter in grad school are long-term projects — like dissertations, career exploration, skill-building, and self-care — without built-in urgency. Using an Eisenhower Matrix is an easy way to make sure those goals stay on your radar.

Prioritizing these “important but not urgent” tasks can help you limit the time you spend on tasks that feel urgent, but aren’t actually as important as your long-term projects.

2) Take one big goal and divide it into five smaller tasks, with five smaller deadlines.

If one of your big “important but not urgent” goals is to apply for dissertation completion fellowships by the end of the semester, you can divide this big goal into five smaller parts:

  • Research and make a list of possible dissertation awards.
  • Figure out if deadlines have already passed, and whether I am eligible.
  • Ask my advisor for a recommendation.
  • Write a personal statement.
  • Request my transcript.

Make sure the first “chunk” is so small that you can do it right away, and then put it straight in your calendar for tomorrow! If you create self-imposed deadlines for each of the five parts, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goal — no last-minute panic required.

3) Build in accountability and support.

The experts agree — you’re way more likely to meet your goals if you have someone else holding you accountable. When you’re really having trouble with motivation, it helps to tell someone else what you’re planning, and have them hold you to your deadlines.

An adviser or P.I. is one option, but there are lots of ways to build out the rest of your support system. You can join or create a writing group (contact the Graduate Writing Center for help!), join a GradPro check-in group, join a virtual group (through the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity or PhinisheD), or just work out an informal check-in system with a friend or colleague.

If you’d like help implementing these strategies, or still have more questions about time management, contact GradPro for ideas and resources. We’re here to support you in reaching your goals!