The title of this blog is not only a catchy Ashlee Simpson song (remember her??!), it is also a phrase that applies in too many ways to life as a graduate student, particularly when it comes to time and project workload management. When I suggested the Gradifying team take on the overall theme of productivity and managing ones’ life in grad school earlier this year, I felt like grad school was slowly chipping away at the pieces, pieces, pieces of me.
How can we manage our time and the workloads associated with our projects in more effective ways?
1) Don’t think about the final product, think about the pieces of the final product
I used to read over my PhD project proposal and think, wow, I wonder what this will look like when it’s done. Now, I can’t do that. I just can’t. Thinking about the final product towards the beginning of my degree was easy, it was almost a motivator in a way. Now, that I am part way through my 5th year, I find it is much more constructive and much less anxiety-inducing, to actually parse out the different projects and think about the steps and parts required for each project to be completed. Each chapter is much easier to swallow, when broken down into sections. The smaller the pieces, the more manageable. You also get to check more stuff off more often, which means that you feel more productive, regardless of whether you actually are or not…and that is a GREAT feeling.
2) Piece apart your time
Breaking down your thesis into parts was the first step. Then you have to break it down into pieces of time. Instead of “I give myself 4 years to complete my PhD…OK…GO!” perhaps something like “I give myself 3 months to come up with a draft of my literature review” is a more digestible piece of your time. You can even go finer scale, and say “I want to find the references for the discussion for my first chapter in the next 2 weeks” or “Today I want to write three paragraphs of an introduction”. Setting realistic pieces of time aside for realistic chunks of work certainly helps you manage your time in a more effective manner and it goes hand in hand with helping you break your project into smaller pieces of work.
3) Hold onto the pieces of you (and the peace within you)
Finally, I have stressed many times on Gradifying the importance of taking time out of your thesis for YOU. The pieces of you are MORE important than the pieces of your thesis. I know that’s hard to comprehend sometimes. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I am writing this blog today. I have been so bogged down and overwhelmed with graduate school recently that I needed to remind myself that I am important. I need to find my balance again, and the first way to do that is by ensuring that I don’t let my life as a graduate student take over all of the pieces of my life. I still need to make time to go ice fishing on the weekends, read a novel before bed, go to the gym in the morning or spend an hour on a Tuesday night watching Netflix. Your thesis is a HUGE piece of you, but in the end it’s only one piece of you.