Time Management Strategies for Graduate Students

Dr. Ellen Mauer
Dr. Ellen Mauer
Elementary school principal; Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
A female student looks at her watch while writing in a notebook.

Many teachers go to graduate school to earn a master’s degree. They do this knowing they will be working full time with household responsibilities, and some may have a family to care for, so implementing time management strategies is a must.

Additionally, personal wellness and keeping good mental health going may be challenging while undertaking this endeavor. Staying organized and using good strategies to balance everything can make this undertaking less stressful and manageable.

If time commitments are properly managed, a teacher may thrive during this time. Gaining more knowledge in the field can be inspiring and motivational, promote teacher wellness, and help against teacher burnout. Good time management skills stay with one for life and can contribute to success in the field.

Time Management Tips

The key to time management is having a plan. When going to grad school, most teachers take cohort classes that will last approximately 18 months. Beginning with a yearly calendar is helpful. Write in the start and end date of each of the classes that will be taken along with the responsibilities and tasks that are important to the full-time teaching job, such as report cards, unit planning, and required evening events.

Once these are in your calendar, it is time for course planning and using a monthly or weekly calendar. As soon the course syllabus is given each semester, write the deadlines of assignments into your calendar. Be sure to give yourself a due date that is a few days early from the time it is due so that if something goes wrong, you will have extra time to find a solution and not have to stress over it. Below are some time management tips that will help as you plan.

Goal Setting

Set reasonable, achievable, and effective goals. Do not pack every day with items and appointments back-to-back. Pre-plan only half of your non-work time each day, so there is time for the unexpected. Keep your eyes on the prize-the end of your coursework and graduation! Chunk your goals into smaller time allotments, perhaps semester by semester. Looking at the entire commitment can be overwhelming.

Prioritize and Delegate

Prioritize your to-do list weekly in your planner. Give high priorities to items that you and only you need to do. Things that have tight deadlines also get high priority. Don’t try to do everything all by yourself. Delegate whatever you can in order to gain more time for items that are prioritized at a high level.

Get out of the mindset that you and only you can do things the “right” way. For example, if you have some chores at home that need to be done each week, but time is needed for assignments or school work, consider some options such as having your groceries and dry cleaning delivered instead of taking valuable time out of the week to get these things done.

Consider hiring a cleaning person to free up more time. A teenager looking for extra money may be a way to get some of these household items done for you at a lower rate.

Share duties at school as well. Your department or team can co-plan with you to help remove some of the load. As long as the end product is of high quality, you do not need to micromanage the way it was done.

Set Time Limits

Be sure to set time limits for yourself. If you’ve planned to work on an assignment until 9 p.m., then go to bed, stick to your commitment. Your sleep is important and you don’t want your times overflowing into other scheduled items. Maintaining your routine and sticking to what is planned is very important. It can be tempting to do “just a little more,” but ultimately, you end up stressing yourself with the next item for completion.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Your physical and mental health should not be overlooked. Instead, plan for it. Many people find that putting in their physical exercise routine in the early morning offers an excellent start to each day. It can help you to feel refreshed and have a clear head before the work day starts. It is invigorating and gives you more energy for your day. There is no worry about how to fit it in after a tiring day of teaching or in between classes.

Plan for an Appropriate Amount of Sleep

Schedule it in if you have to. Cutting sleep is tempting, but it makes a person drag when they become overtired. It is not sustainable to continue to cut sleep over long periods of time.

Your Support Network

Be sure you have someone you can talk to regularly. That may be a spouse, friend, or counselor. It is essential to take time to share the happenings and stresses in your life with someone trusted so that you feel that sense of good mental health.

Connect with Your Cohort

Sometimes, going out with your cohort group once in a while is also helpful. After all, you are all going through the same things, taking classes while working full time, juggling your home and family responsibilities, and having to continue these for the program’s full course. Your peers often have good suggestions and are good at listening. They can be an excellent source of support. These fellow classmates may also become your network group in the future.

Other Miscellaneous Tips

There are other small things that may work will for you. Some people like to:

  • Set regular reminders in their phone
  • Call or email themselves and leave messages at work/home as reminders
  • Set apart one weekend day for working and the other for just having fun

No matter what you prefer when it comes to time management strategies for graduate students, find what works for you and stick to it. That regular routine and adherence to organization will have you on top of things and make getting through your grad school experiences smooth sailing.

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