Monday: day of fresh starts…when the week ahead looms ahead full of empty possibility, right? Wrong. If you’re like me, the week is already filling up with fresh to-do lists and low-level anxiety about how the heck to get it all done before next week is already upon us. When you’re a graduate student luxuriating in unstructured days that involve reading, writing and that pesky, hard-to-pin-down task of ‘thinking’ (yes, thinking counts as a pastime when you’re in grad school), it’s easy to let the weeks slip by without ticking anything off the to-do list.
The key, in my mind, is in creating a schedule – and in that, giving yourself a sense of structure… something that is absolutely key when your week doesn’t otherwise have much of that.
I know, for instance, that I have to write two blog posts this week. I also have to do 5 hours of research a week (I work as a research assistant), which doesn’t sound like a lot until you’re trying to do it all on Sunday afternoon). I also have to finish up a paper that’s been hanging over my head for awhile (I really don’t know what I’m waiting for – the paper is practically done.. I just need to finish it up).
Now that I’ve got a new idea for a thesis project (I had lunch with my supervisor and she gave me a thumbs-up) I have to draft a new proposal, and I’ll have to resubmit to the ethics review board (sigh). I’m auditing a class (Gender and Sexuality – a grad seminar offered through the department of gender studies), which means I’ll now have to read a book or so every week (or at least enough of each book so that I can hold my own in class ). And my supervisor just suggested I audit her third year documentary production class (oh geez!), so there will be reading for that, plus the accompanying films to watch.
Oh- and then there’s all that basic life stuff that needs to get done every week, too: exercise (I try and get to the gym a couple of times a week, and like to throw in the odd yoga class — it all helps keep me sane), grocery shopping and cooking, laundry, housework (though I generally try to clean-as-I-go rather than setting aside dedicated cleaning time), and the odds and ends that come up during the week (for example, I need to get both my bike and my sunglasses fixed, as well as send a birthday card).
(And did I mention I’m taking a dance class in ‘Latin Jazz’ at the Kingston School of Dance? I’m expanding my horizons by trying something new).
Plus- I still have to find the time to do things like respond to emails, water my plants, and keep my Facebook status up-to-date (I’m mostly kidding with that one) and see my friends (though it may sound frivolous, socializing is a really important part of a balanced lifestyle).
In other words: as graduate students, we have a lot to contend with. It’s really easy to let all that stuff get overwhelming. That’s why I’m going to make an effort to start the academic year off right by scheduling in my activities, booking in time to read and think, and blocking off space for socializing — because feeling connected to other people who are going through some of the same stuff is really important!
We’ll see how it goes…