I have recently read the book by Jocelyn Glei of 99U called “Managing your day-to-day”, which provides some strategies for managing one’s day-to-day as a ‘creative professional’. Given the creative nature of graduate school, I consider myself a ‘creative’ of sorts as well. In particular, I took to heart the strategies pertaining to time usage, and I have implemented some of those strategies in a tangible form, which I’d like to share with everybody. Below, here’s 5 strategies that worked for me.
1. Scheduling for 1.5 hour blocks of time.
I use the Calendar app on my Mac to plan out what I’d like to do for the coming week. Generally, I try to schedule things in 1.5 hr blocks, so that I have 15 minutes to ease into it, 1 hr to do whatever I need to do, and 15 minutes to ease out of it into the next thing. I know my brain limit is about 4.5 hours if hard thinking; split into 1.5 hour chunks means I get to do 3 important things every day, 2 if I have classes on that day, 1 if I have classes + statistics lab.
2. Intentionally planning breaks.
Without breaks, my mind gets burned out really quickly. Therefore, I decided that intentionally scheduling breaks would be the right thing to do. In between the 1.5 hour stretches of work, I put in 1 hr break times where I can, 30 minutes if time does not permit (e.g. external appointments). Break time for me either means eating lunch, having coffee, or going for a jog.
3. Have a separate calendar for non-important appointments.
My regular calendar is coloured yellow. I have a second calendar for which if I have to meet with people outside of my main priority zones (Family, Church, School, in that order), I allow one such appointment of those kinds each day, and I allow myself to block days from having so-called “non-important” appointments.
4. Block non-important appointments out of the calendar.
If I know a deadline is approaching, I will block myself from non-important appointments for the week approaching the deadline, and schedule most of my 1.5 hr work blocks to target work for that deadline.
5. Be ruthless in pushing off non-important appointments.
I have scheduled appointments with friends 4 weeks out in advance, simply because I had a series of deadlines approaching in 4 weeks. I was definitely not used to that, as I would typically make time within the coming day or two, but putting non-important things off until later paid off in giving me the space to focus on the important stuff here and now.