Time Management and the Lies I Tell Myself

For as long as I can remember, I have told myself that I work best under pressure. Not just pressure in the “this is a high-stakes task” sense, but rather pressure in the sense that I should say yes to everything because somehow, by filling up my schedule, I’ll be more productive. I recently, and perhaps just in time, discovered that this was in fact a lie. It’s easy to convince ourselves that being over-busy and working everyday is somehow making us more productive, especially in those times when this seems like our only option. What gets left aside in these moments may vary in terms of importance, but they all matter just the same. Maybe it’s the gym that gets skipped, or that episode of Downton Abbey (current binge) that goes unwatched. Or, it’s the hours of sleep that don’t happen, and the mental and physical health that slowly chip away.

For 2018, I had promised myself I would do and be better, and so far…well, I’m writing this, aren’t I?As a graduate student, I’m in a constant “I should be writing” or “I’ll never finish on time if I don’t put in 70/hrs. a week” or “I don’t really need a break.” And these too are all the lies I tell myself.

I have been getting better at taking Saturdays as “my day,” closing the laptop on Friday evening and not opening it again until Sunday. I’ll admit, it’s really hard. But I need to do this. Taking this time off is just as important to finishing my degree as spending hours reading and writing. In many ways, this post is more for me, but perhaps it’ll help others who stumble across. I normally keep long running to-do lists for my work-from-home days. And what usually happens is I end up switching between social media, getting sidetracked with housework, and not getting half.

Today, I slept until 7:30am. (I’m normally up between 6-6:30am during the week.) I actually scheduled my tasks on my calendar — grading first, dissertation timeline next, reading my official statements, and writing up a research memo for tomorrow’s meeting. And now? It’s almost 4 and the only task I have left is to draft my conference abstract. Breaking up my day into timed chunks, with designated tasks, helped me stay focused. As I transition into dissertation research and writing, I know that I’ll need to carve these spaces in my day for specific and targeted tasks. And yes, I will also carve spaces for those things I designate as self-care. So tonight, I will get that workout, and that episode of Downton Abbey will not go unwatched.

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