It’s been a while since we had a “week in the life of a grad student” post. You may recall Masa Torbica’s contribution, as she prepared for PhD exams; or Jessica Van de Kemp’s mediation on how she keeps going; Phil Miletic–who has just defended–brilliantly crowd-sourced his. In this instance, PhD candidate Diana Moreno Ojeda writes about how she schedules her life–or doesn’t. Read on to find out more!–JLH
There are two especially important moments in my week: the day when I plan what things I want to get done, and the day I evaluate how much I actually got done. While thinking about how to help readers visualize how my I plan my week, I realized that it would probably be useful to include pictures of what my calendars look like. Yes, you read it right: calendars, in the plural. Don’t get me wrong; there are a number of “little big things” that, although not scheduled, I still cherish because they allow me to function. The 20-minute morning exercises that allow me to fully wake up, otherwise I would be an incoherent grump when required to think before 10:00 am. The night walks that help me think clearly. Getting coffee with friends. Looking at the pictures I get from my niece and nephews. These little big things I play by ear. My calendars are for everything else.
- My electronic calendar helps me figure out what time I need to be where. It is really helpful as well when sorting out what time I have available to do homework, schedule meetings, or see friends. This is how my week looks at my time of writing:
I colour-code my entries too, but there isn’t a particularly good reason for it. It just works for me. The entries in salmon are work shifts. They tend to vary, as I sometimes trade work shifts to attend academic events. Blue is my class schedule. Believe it or not, even though class times stay fixed week-to-week, entering them in the calendar has more than once prevented me from accidentally scheduling anything that conflicts with them.
The entries in red display important academic commitments that I can’t miss. And, on some other weeks, I use orange to mark academic events that I would like to get to, but that do not have priority over work or homework. Green, on the other hand, reminds me of appointments with people, whether they are for my personal wellbeing, or my professional progress. Last, but not least, and highlighted in my favourite colour, are non-academic events. This week my partner and I will be heading to Kitchener for the second evening of constructing a Pinball machine at the Critical Media Lab. And, as I was one of those children who really liked collecting and classifying rocks, I’ll be heading to the EIT building at the end of the week for a rock and gemstone show.
- My paper calendar differs from the electronic one in that I use it not to assign time blocks to events, but to track the completion of individual tasks. Experience has taught me that being overly ambitious in my expectations about what I can get done is counterproductive, so now I give myself a smaller number of specific tasks, and try to separate what must get done, from what it’d be nice to get started on. This term I am giving myself stickers on the days I complete all my tasks without missing any commitments from my electronic calendar. It is supposed to work as a reward and, really, the stickers I got are pretty darn cute.
There are days, many days to be completely honest, when I feel like I am constantly running around, kind of like a bumblebee, always busy. I joke with a couple of classmates about how often we make all these plans to get it all done on Saturdays so that our Sundays are completely full of fun and worry free: playing games, drawing, getting next week’s lunches ready without dreading how long it takes to cook and clean up. By the time that Saturday rolls in, though, we are so tired that sleeping in is unavoidable, even when we know that such shenanigans mean that a couple of tasks will unavoidably take up a good chunk of our Sundays.
Once I heard that graduate student life should be treated like a job. In a way, this piece of wisdom makes sense; work is not all you do, nor is your graduate degree. Yet, I have never really been able to see my graduate studies that way. There are two reasons behind my lack of identification with that statement. Part of it is that, like many other students, I have a couple of part-time jobs to help me pay the bills and so I organize my research time in a less structured manner. The rest of it is that the one thing always making me excited about coming to school is the chance to talk to people working on a range of different fields, to brainstorm, to debate, in classrooms and in the halls. In the end, even when reviewing my week is sometimes overwhelming, by the time Saturday rolls in, and I stay in bed ninety minutes past my alarm, I feel pretty content with my life.