5 Time-Management Tips for Working While in Grad School

Carolina Jacobs

Feb 24, 2023
working while in grad school

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Depending on your field, you may need an advanced degree to reach your maximum earning and life satisfaction potential. However, it’s unrealistic for many to delay the responsibilities of adult life indefinitely. Over three-quarters of graduate students work 30 or more hours each week while attending school. 

If you have children, you might have added familial responsibilities, leaving your plate overflowing. What can you do to stay on top of it all? Here are five time management tips for working while in grad school. 

1. Select a System 

You need a system for staying on top of your responsibilities. Some people prefer old-fashioned paper planners for the additional space for taking detailed notes. The lack of character limits can come in handy when your professor drops a weighty assignment with multiple parts, requiring you to outline various steps. 

However, you can’t beat the convenience of today’s apps. Nearly everyone takes their phones with them everywhere they go and some versions even sync with your watch for those times when your constant companion is charging. 

Either way, select a system that works for you. Pro-tip: You might employ a combination approach, using a paper planner to stay on top of your to-do list but employing technology to set wake-up reminders or share a grocery list with family members. 

2. Schedule and Estimate 

It isn’t enough to merely purchase the right tools. You need to use them for maximum benefit by scheduling your week. 

Begin as each semester commences, writing down critical due dates like examinations and essay due dates. Then, work your way backward, scheduling sufficient work and study time each week to tackle these assignments. 

The evening before your work and school week begin (typically Sunday), sit down and review your school-related time estimates, adding them around your work duties like arranging Jenga blocks. 

It’s as crucial to take care of your physical and mental health needs — you are not a robot. Keeping up with your hectic schedule requires you to adhere to solid dietary and exercise guidelines more than ever. Include at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week to participate in a regular exercise program that adheres to WHO guidelines. 

You might have to eat the occasional meal in front of your books or computer, but schedule a nice dinner with your family or partner at least once a week to nurture your connection and unwind. Get your meal-prep game on point, enlisting other people’s help in the kitchen to always have a supply of grab-and-go goodness that lets you skip the drive-thru. 

3. Set a Date With Your Manager 

Many managers happily support their employee’s efforts to further their education, particularly if their degree will help them in their current field. However, some can make your life more difficult than necessary. You can’t control what other people do — but you can take the right steps to give yourself the peace of mind that you acted professionally and respectfully. 

You can do so by setting a date with your manager to discuss your increased responsibilities outside of work. Please be honest. If you think you can keep up with your current workload, only needing the occasional day off for an exam, say so. However, if you may need to step back from a project or two, it’s better to admit that you need help than do a subpar job and reap the consequences later. 

4. Make the Most of Downtime 

It’s glorious to kick back and scroll social media with no time limit. However, you’ll probably have to sacrifice such joys temporarily to make the grade. 

Here’s where technology can be your best friend. For example, you can use your commuting time to listen to recorded lectures. Are you taking a break? Fulfill part of your daily exercise requirements with one of today’s apps that feature workouts as short as five minutes. 

5. Delegate and Appreciate 

No one will mind if the dishes occasionally pile up in the sink if you live alone. However, you should enlist your partner’s aid if you share a household. Communication is key to minimizing resentment — and getting the help you need with your hectic new schedule. 

Sit down with your family and review your chores list, asking for extra help with those tasks that overwhelm you the most. Be sure to appreciate their offers to pick up more of the slack, perhaps promising a special weekend trip when you finish exams. 

Time-Management Tips for Working While in Grad School 

Most graduate students work, but that doesn’t mean they find it easy to juggle their varied responsibilities. You need a plan to avoid feeling burned out and overwhelmed. 

However, it is possible to manage it all. Follow the five time-management tips above for working while in grad school and enjoy a less stressful path to your degree. 

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