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Juggling Multiple Roles: The Graduate Student Struggle

pretty young girl standing and juggling with red balls

By nature, graduate students occupy multiple roles. We aren’t just students, we are also employed contractually by the university as TAs, RAs, and TFs as part of our program training (and our funding packages). On top of that, many of us take on additional work to make ends meet. I have worked many different positions during my graduate school career, within and outside of the university. From small one-contracts running information sessions for the university, to my recently begun full time position as a counsellor at a non-profit. Many of us also volunteer for causes that we are passionate about, which adds yet another thing into our hectic schedules. Through trial and error (and error, and error, and error) I have come up with some ways that help me to organize my time. 

  1. Keep a calendar: I know it sounds simple, but keeping a calendar is so important to track your various assignments, deadlines, and commitments. I have tried online calendars, and physical agendas, and for me the act of writing things down has been very helpful. But that is just a matter of personal preference. 
  2. To-Do Lists: Making lists is another way that I manage my time. Every week the first thing I do is write out the list of tasks I have for the upcoming week. That way I can see mapped out before me what I need to achieve. A lot of things migrate from one week to another without completion, but the eventually satisfaction that comes from checking off items from that list is unmatched! 
  3. Learn your working style: I write better in the mornings. So, when I plan my week, I tend to schedule myself time in the mornings to write. I also prefer to do big ‘batch’ marking, so I will leave larger spaces free for marking on the weekends, rather than doing a little here and there on my weekday evenings.
  4. Say no: It is so hard to say no to things. There are so many interesting talks, alluring conference presentations, and worthy causes in graduate school. But you can’t do everything! Sometimes you just have to say no to things because you don’t have the time, the physical or the mental energy to take part. It is great to support your friends when you can when they are doing a talk, or to spend time cleaning up your local conservation area, but only when it doesn’t come as a determent to your mental health.
  5. Accept Mistakes: Things will fall through the cracks. It is inevitable. No matter how carefully you plan, there will be unexpected things that pop up. An illness, a family emergency, or just plain forgetting something. I am writing this right now in the evening, even though I never write at night, because I forgot that I was supposed to write a post for Gradifying! 

If any of you have thoughts about juggling multiple responsibilities, I am always happy to receive advice! Please leave suggestions in the comments or reach out to us via email!

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