This is a GradHacker post by Cory Owen, PhD graduate student in Educational Leadership at University of Houston, @coowen.
The busy life of a grad student is often spent juggling multiple responsibilities from school, work and personal life. If you’re anything like me, you’re always finding yourself overcommitted to things and something has to drop to the wayside.
One of my goals has been to better manage my time and set up boundaries with my commitments. I’m not naturally a planner (big understatement!), but I’ve come to realize that if I’m not careful, things are just going to fall apart.
Since I’m obsessed with my iPhone and iPad, I use my apps to keep my life in order. Evernote  has been a game changer for me (I’ve also been hearing rave reviews about Remember the Milk ). I can set reminders for myself (ahem, usually a few of them in case I forget), add notes to remind myself of great research ideas, tag things so I’m not searching for ten minutes through my phone and make checklists. There’s just something very satisfying about checking off those little boxes and then archiving it as complete.
Beyond my own organization, I’ve learned the value of just saying no. I realize that I’m not going to always make it to every event I want to attend or make it to that amazing lecture. I make priorities and go from there. It has really helped me balance out my days so I feel a lot more productive and a lot less guilty when I take time for myself. Even the Mayo Clinic  touts the value of saying no as a stress reliever!
My other workaround is just being creative with my obligations. I have a friend who loves to cook, but is also incredibly busy. He will often try out new recipes on our study group and so there’s a justification and reward for time spent doing something he loves. I am an RA who sometimes doesn’t get to spend as much time with her residents as she’d like, so now I’ve committed to running with some of my students in an effort to combine two goals: my exercise and my commitment to my RA job. My personal life can sometimes take the back burner to my job and school, so I make sure that the time I spend with my husband is quality time doing something we both enjoy (in this case, darts). I may not have the time to go play darts whenever I want, but if I’m combining it with something else that I want to do, it is easier to justify making time for it.
As grad students, it is easy often to get wrapped up in our busy lives, but it is always a good idea to take a step back and reevaluate priorities. Whenever areas of my life start stressing me out, I realize that something went wrong with my time boundaries and I reorganize my life to ensure that the important things that need to get done happen in a timely manner.
What are some of your coping mechanisms to a hectic life?
[Image by Flickr user bottled_void and used under Creative Commons license]