One of the things that drew me to the online program here at the Knight School was the eight-week class schedule. Even knowing those eight weeks would run at a tough pace, being able to focus on one class at a time seemed plausible. As a stay at home mom, I remember my biggest fear before I began: how in the world am I going to make time for this? Over time, I found a time management approach to make this work – but it didn’t come easily.
Setting up for success
Before this family journey began, my husband and I decided it was worth an extra $50 per month to bump our daughter up to five days per week at her Mother’s Morning Out program. That opened up fifteen hours per week of study time– not enough to get everything done, but certainly a good start. I remember one tip from Orientation sounded impossible: schedule in weekly down time. I dismissed this immediately. I could scarcely imagine the time to study, let alone taking a break!
Once in the program, that eight week calendar set in and I began to get the feel of things. I had a tough adjustment at first to less time with my daughter, as did she. Then during my second class I had a breakthrough - I decided to push hard and finish my final presentation early. I didn’t see my daughter for nearly the entire weekend. But the reward was three days of pure mommy-daughter time between classes, including a day trip to the beach. I began to understand why down time was so important. Ultimately this “push” habit developed into a time management philosophy: get ahead and stay there.
Time management = Stress Management
Today, halfway through the program, I check the reading for Week One as each new class loads on a Friday. Then I finish by Sunday night, so that I can post my weekly Discussion on Monday, two days early. I simply continue along this vein, mentally moving up all assignment deadlines by two days. This effort is well worth it because getting ahead in Week One makes it easier to stay ahead. I haven’t abandoned my daughter for a full weekend since that second class. I usually can’t watch a full length movie but can easily stream a TV show a few times a week to relax. Most importantly, I have time to write a draft, walk away for a day then come back for revision. This approach works well with a set schedule like mine, but for others life is anything but routine. So the point is not to suggest my system will work for everyone. The point is to ask, what approach will work for you?
Where there is graduate work, there is certainly stress. Yet good time management gives tremendous control over how much stress. I can offer no secret sauce for time management, in my experience it follows from the making a decision to gut it out. From there bad habits fall away, priorities come into alignment, and the work gets done. It helps to get to know your classmates, and discover they are struggling with this too. One thing I can confirm: there may be no secret sauce for time management, but time management is definitely the secret sauce for good work. I have done much of my best writing here at the Knight school coming off of a period of rest.
My closest buddy and I have a saying when things get tough here at Queens: We got this! Sure, it’s bad grammar, but it gets us through. So whether you are still undecided about graduate work, or you recently began and are feeling unsure you can make it, I will pass that along in the hope that it will help you too.
You got this.