As a first-year graduate student, I could write a list of things that I wish I knew. One of the top items on that list would be: how do you effectively manage your time as a teaching assistant and a grad student? If this question has ever crossed your mind, then this is the blog post for you!
On a weekly basis, I find myself performing a juggling act with every task that arises. From planning tutorials, to marking assignments, to completing my own assignments; it all seems never-ending. Luckily, I have come across amazing mentors who have offered some words of wisdom, which I will now be sharing with you.
The first piece of advice that I will be passing down is: make a schedule and (try to) stick to it. When it comes to managing TA duties as well as your own workload, it often feels like there is not enough time in the day. This should be your first sign to begin scheduling. At the start of every week, it is important to remind yourself of the time-sensitive tasks that you must complete and write them down in a calendar. As well, I find it useful to make a list of all the things (readings, assignments, marking, etc.) that I should work on, but do not have a designated time for in the week. Personally, I enjoy having a balance between work and school. Thus, I will divide my spare time between my TA duties and my graduate student duties. For example, if I have a paper to write for one of my own classes and a paper to mark in the class that I am a TA for, I will split up my workday to accommodate both. In the morning, I will begin working on my paper, which includes researching my topic and writing down my ideas as they come. Once I’ve reached a dead-end and my thoughts are no longer flowing, I will turn over to marking. Typically, I will divide up the number of papers that I have to mark, by the number of days until the grades are due, to declare how many papers I should be marking each day. This specific strategy has helped me immensely, to stay on task and meet my deadlines.
My second piece of advice is: go easy on yourself! If you feel like you can’t get every task done, that’s okay too. A wise professor once told me, “Treat your TA-ship like a job,” and I have carried this with me ever since. Sometimes, you may not feel the most productive, or you may become distracted by another endeavor. In this case, I would recommend focusing on the tasks of higher importance. For example, if you scheduled time to work on an assignment for one of your own classes, but you also have a tutorial to prep for, try to make time for your job first. This suggestion is subject to change depending on your deadlines, but it should help you make well-founded decisions and manage your time better.
If you could take one thing away from this post, it would be this: no one has all the answers for the perfect grad school experience. Despite my own recommendations, it is up to you to find your own routine and make the most of your time here at Queen’s!
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