My friends often make fun of me because of how obsessed I appear to be with schedules. And, yes, I will play on this by pretending to be some sort of crazy OCD, superbly self-disciplined machine who sticks to his schedule AT ALL COSTS. But, the harsh reality is that I’m not at all this obsessive overstructured freak that I proudly claim to be.
I’m a procrastinator. In fact, I have been one for 24 years. And, I say “24” years (i.e. my entire life), because I apparently wouldn’t even come out when I was being born – hence, making me a C-section baby. So, I have a pretty well-established habit of putting off until later what should be done now.
I’ve learned through the years that I am naturally a procrastinator. But, it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing I can do to compensate for that. Thus, I maintain this colourful array of grids and boxes to delineate my time into chunks of productive goodness, along with colour-coded lists and checkboxes. The pretty colours even help motivate me to actually make good on this pretty schedule. Because, after all, what good is a pretty, colourful schedule, unless it is followed with some degree of fidelity.
And, let’s be honest here. Grad school is a dangerous mine pit for procrastinators. Gone are the hard deadlines and daily homework assignments that, once upon an undergrad time, forced me to keep a consistent pace with my work. Nowadays, there are the dreaded semesterly performance reviews, the dreaded e-mails from your supervisor requesting a progress report, etc. These things come far less frequently, but when they come, what started as an ordinary day in the lab can quickly turn super-stressful if you have little to show for those months and months of being paid by McGill.
So, my best advice for grad students (including us shameless procrastinators out there) is to impose as much structure as possible on your workload. Be reasonable about it, honest about it, and, by golly, stick to it! You will find that, at the end of the month, not only will you be able to look back on a pretty array of colours and boxes, but those pretty colours and boxes will actually mean something substantive as far as your hard work and productivity are concerned.
(Note that I’m writing this blog entry during the time that my schedule tells me I’m supposed to be doing “Thesis studies.” haha!)