Organization Tips for Grad Students with Full-Time Jobs

It's a common situation: You’re working hard towards your master's degree, while also juggling a full-time job and the expectation of squeezing everything into 24 hours. Time management is crucial to success, but it’s also challenging to get it right. Here, we’ll explore eight tips to help graduate students stay organized and manage their time, so you can work hard and smart, without burning out.

woman brown hair green sweater on laptop in classroom

  1. Get a Fixed Schedule: The first step to managing your time is creating a fixed weekly schedule that allows you to prioritize tasks. Once you have that schedule, stick to it as closely as possible. Even if your classes take place asynchronously online—as many of LIM College's do—try to work these into a reliably open slot in your tight schedule. This gives you a clear guideline of your daily activities and reduces confusion and last-minute pivots.
  2. Use To-Do Lists: Make a daily list of what you need to accomplish that day, ranked in order of importance. This will help track your goals and your daily accomplishments. Update the list at the end of the day, adding new tasks for tomorrow, as you complete others.
  3. Use Time Blocks: Create a schedule of time blocks with start and end times, detailing every activity from work to study time to socializing to family time. You can break up a longer study session into smaller, more concentrated sessions with frequent breaks in between. Setting clear limits on specific activities also helps avoid procrastination and encourages you to work efficiently within the set time.
  4. Avoid Distractions: This is a tough one in the modern age, but try not to let emails or social media take attention away from your work. Create a quiet study area—or virtual classroom, if you're learning online—turn off unnecessary alerts on your devices, and consider downloading an app to block websites or limit screen time on your mobile device.
  5. Leverage Technology: Take advantage of different tools available to you, such as Google Calendar, Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. These can help organize your information, files, and documents digitally across all your devices, which is a major efficiency win. You can also automate reminders and tasks to help keep on top of your schedule.
  6. Stay Ahead: Create a plan at the beginning of each semester or major project period, block out the dates when papers or presentations are due. Plan to finish or complete tasks one or two days early; this avoids down-to-the-wire stress and gives you a little buffer time for finetuning if necessary.
  7. Be Realistic: It’s vital to remember that you can’t do everything, even if you're a high achiever. Manage your workload and time effectively by being realistic about what you can accomplish. This is an important skill and vital for your well-being even beyond your educational and professional life. Never hold yourself to unreasonable expectations!
  8. Balance and Rest: Lastly, it’s important to prioritize selfcare and balance it alongside your schedule. Plan to attend to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Whether it’s taking a 15-minute break after an intense work session to meditate, do yoga, or go for a short walk, set it into motion. Relaxing activities alleviate stress, reset your mind, and energize you to get back to the task at hand.