Like many of you reading the first few lines of this post, I have a lot going on. In fact, you’re probably quickly deciding if it’s worth it to read this full post or bypass it for something more pressing. Like me, you may have looming deadlines in class, obligations to clients, the needs of family to meet, and your own health, care, and feeding to tend to. Before you go on though, I’m wondering if you would be willing to share your best time management hack—I’d especially love to hear what works for other spoonies.
Prior to the start of a new semester, I try to mentally prepare for upcoming classes by reading the course descriptions, hunting down the texts, and imagining the sheer relief I’ll feel at the end of the semester (wait, is that jumping too far ahead?). Once classes begin, I feel a little like I’m submerged in a deep pool of fear about actually reading the unreadable amount of text, watching the unwatchable number of lectures and supplemental videos, and completing the heaping pile of steaming assignments included in a full load of courses.
At this point you may be wondering if I even like library school. And I do. I really enjoy my program and all of the interesting things I get to learn. So, after the initial wash of to-do induced anxiety, I go about the task of creating a schedule.
After some experimentation, I found that the students I teach (in my work life) tend to turn in assignments on time when I create both a hard copy calendar and a Google calendar, so they have reminders in different formats. Once I realized how well this worked, I began to do the same for myself. It sounds a little excessive once it’s in print, but the sweet spot for me includes three different calendars.
Thanks to the nursing students I shared undergrad science classes with, I learned to color-code whenever possible. Each class has its own color that’s consistent across each scheduling format. After setting a class color in Canvas (the learning management system used by my school), I set up each course and the associated assignment deadlines in an app on my phone called iStudiez Pro. The app serves to remind me of due dates as a backup. Next, I use colored markers to transfer each assignment into my pen-and-paper planner, so I have an hourly and day-to-day view.
Finally, I put school, work, and other life commitments up on a shared whiteboard calendar so there is a month-at-a-glance view easily accessible. Laugh at this if you like, but this is the strategy that removed all of the “you didn’t tell me about that” conversations from my relationship. My missus and I run a business together AND still like each other and I give full recognition and thanks to our friendly whiteboard for this fact.
I’ll admit that this process is a little tedious, but it’s worth it in some important ways. One of the most immediate benefits is that writing it all down helps me to prepare for and quantify the weight of the next few months. Instead of all of my “to-dos” floating in a nebulous mass of dread, I know what to expect and how long the list will be. Thanks to iStudiez Pro, my phone home screen pops up a little red bubble with a number that starts off somewhere in the 50s and steadily ticks down to zero after I mark each completed task off the list.
We all know about the psychological beauty of making checklists and marking them off, right? I’ve found both satisfaction and pretty decent accomplishment by marking off every schedule I can get my hands on. First, Canvas tells me that my assignment was submitted (with an exclamation point!), next the app on my phone shows me a lower number in the little read bubble, then I get to put a check in the box on the list in my planner, and finally, I can erase the line on the master whiteboard. Each line, check mark, and swipe of the eraser adds a little charge to my battery and serves to boost my stamina.
This is where I would love to hear what strategies work for you. I deal with a chronic illness and try to build in a differentiation between the hard deadlines and the flexible to-dos into my schedule, so I know where I have wiggle room. The whiteboard helps my partner and I know what to expect and helps us share responsibilities. Have other techniques and tools worked for you?
All photos under CC0 Creative Commons
Categories: Behind the Scenes