A Slice of Life: Full-time Grad School Student, Time Management, Productivity
Why, hello there. Welcome back to my youtube channel! Today we are going to be talking about a day in my life as a full-time grad school student, how I deal with time management, and how I maximize it to be more productive!
How did I do as a fake Youtuber? Did I score 5/5?
Me being cheeky aside, I do want to talk about how I am struggling to stay afloat as a grad student with all the new assignments and responsibilities. Prior to this, whenever I hear people say how crazy grad school is, I would always just roll my eyes and be like, yeah yeah. How is it any worse than what I have been through in my 4 years of university?
Well, folks. Color me surprised because I was wrong. Big time. All of a sudden, 24 hours in a day just doesn’t seem enough to balance school, hobbies, internships, downtime, side projects––oh, and I also have to keep myself alive in the midst of all that. I must say, if this is what having kids feels like, I’m opting out.
So lately, I have been watching a lot of productivity videos on Youtube––especially by a Cambridge doctor called Ali Abdaal among many others––in my journey to maximize my productivity and better my time management skills. Here are a few things that I have started implementing in my life:
1. If it’s not a “Hell Yeah”, it’s a “No”
Being someone who has just started on her journey to say “yes” to more things less than a year ago, you can imagine my surprise when I realized that I cannot say yes to everything. As much as I’d like to be a yes woman, it is physically impossible for me to continuously saying yes without sacrificing other aspects of my life.
Prior to starting my grad school, I was working around 8 jobs, working on my blog on the side, learning how to play the piano, and took extra classes on the side simply because I have free time and wanted to maximize that time as much as I can. When I didn’t have school to weigh me down, everything was a busy yet well-oiled machine. However, once we throw grad school into the equation, my life went poop sooner than I could blink.
I started to realize that I was trading my time for money, which is not a bad thing in and of itself since billions of people do that every day. But the thing is, I only have a finite amount of hours in a day and I cannot possibly do all the work, hobbies, side projects I do without having to sacrifice something. So I sat myself down, had a good think about where my priority lies, and basically did a Marie Kondo session. Instead of doing it on clothes, however, I Marie Kondo-ed my life.
These days, I have started to implement the rule of, if it is not a “hell yes”, then it’s a “no”. That one rule has made my life and time so much more manageable. I no longer have this inner demon to push me to say yes to everything, but instead, I evaluate the pros and cons and then decide if it is worth my time or should I just say no and move on to other better opportunities.
2. Read, watch, listen on 2x speed
This is another new tip that I am trying to slowly but surely implement in my life. These days, because of how swamped things get, I find that I barely have any time to finish a book or watch a documentary anymore. Even the thought of starting tires me out sometimes because I cannot imagine myself having enough time to finish it, so why even bother?
And then I stumbled onto Ali Abdaal‘s youtube channel and kept hearing how much he preaches about listening/watching things on x2 speed to save time. At first, I was a little skeptical about it. My reasoning being, reading or watching a movie/documentary should be something that is fun. It should not be rushed as modern life is already so rushed as it is. I wanted to just be able to enjoy the things I do in my leisure time. Understanding that yet at the same time also curious about why and how some people listen/watch things on x2 speed, I decided to give it a try.
Lo and behold, it is actually not as bad as it seems. Actually, watching a documentary or listening to a podcast on 2x speed makes me more alert to what I am doing. When previously if I do it at a normal speed I find that I am just half-listening, doing it on double speed in a way throws my brain into panic mode as it scrambles to catch everything that is being said which in turn makes me pay more attention. Another plus side to this is that I get so excited every time I watch something on double speed because it feels like I’m cheating and not playing by the rules. Of course, when I find some parts that are interesting or parts that piqued my interest I would slow down or rewind so I can take notes, but for the most part, listening to podcasts or watching documentaries on double speed has saved me so much time.
3. Brain is for forming ideas, not for storing them
I have heard this saying so many times throughout the years, each people that I heard it from say it in different ways, but in the end, it always comes down to: note-taking is important, if you think of some new ideas, write it down immediately.
It’s been said to be over and over, yet I would always brush it off. I would always find some kind of excuses to not jot new ideas down, or write them down only when I re-remember them. All of that really only comes down to one thing, laziness. It is a shame to think about how many great ideas that I have forgotten and lost over the years because I didn’t heed this advice. Alas, it is no time for regret. At least I realize it now and am making changes towards documenting my thoughts and ideas instead of letting them rot away somewhere in my brain.
4. Finding joy in everything I do
We all have a routine, places to be, things to do, and dreams to chase. In many instances, in the process of making those dreams a reality, we have to do things that are boring or repetitive. At first, it might be okay, but after a certain length of time, we started to get annoyed or easily bored with those routines. All of this is understandable, we are human after all.
But recently I have come to understand that successful people aren’t people who are born different or special. They are the same as you and I. The only thing they have that is different from most people is their level of discipline. It doesn’t matter if they do a lot or a little, it doesn’t matter if the result is good or bad, what matters is that they show up every day and do the things that need to get done. Looking at that, some people might say, well if that is the case why do I need to find joy in whatever boring routine it is that I do? As long as I show up and I do it, it should be okay no?
Yes, logically that is a sound argument but life is already so weighed down by responsibilities what wrong is it to try to make things more fun? Additionally, it is never a bad thing for us to add a small sprinkle of gratefulness throughout our day, is it?
5. Chill time is as important––if not more––than crunch time
I have started to think of my body as a machine, and with a machine, in order to have it fully functioning at all times, I need to turn it off sometimes to cool it down or to upgrade some parts. My body is the same. I only have one body and mind, if I don’t take good care of it, then I will have to deal with the repercussions down the line.
After having a few depressive episodes and panic attacks last year because I work myself too hard, past the point of exhaustion, I have made a conscious effort to be kind to myself and to listen to my body. If I am tired, I will take a day off to rest or schedule a time where I can just do nothing. At the time it might be hard to slow down because of my FOMO of not wanting to fall too far behind the rat race, but I will always remind myself that is it okay to rest. It is better to fix the small problems now, rather than continue to push on only to have small problems turn into giant monsters.
6. Cultivate friendships and lean into discomfort
Last but not least, making more friends. I think in today’s day and age, it is surprisingly easy to be alone and be lonely. We are always connected to the world at large through our phones and social media, but these days we don’t really cultivate deeper and longer-lasting friendships. I understand that a lot of us are busy, we always have new ideas to flesh out, those piling emails that need answering back to, and a load of house chores that we need to deal with every weekend. But I always remind myself that when things get tough, when I need to shoulder to lean on, it will not be my emails who will rush to my side to console me nor will it be those house chores that I get done every weekend––it will be my friends.
These days, I am making an active effort to be more open, to not be so afraid to share my vulnerabilities. I have found that everyone is also looking for space where they can be themselves, and by me taking the first step to open up makes it significantly easier for others to start doing so as well.
I also learned that––just like plants––friendships need to be maintained. I have seen so many people constantly lament about the fact that people start drifting apart after high school or college, they start working and having kids, and all of a sudden everyone is off living their own lives. As humans, we really do worry too much about what others think about us when in reality others barely gave us a thought. It is okay to reach out, to be a little clingy with friends, and tell them “I love you.”
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