Time Sheets for Graduate Students: Assets and Liabilities

At different times in my graduate school career, I have kept a record of how many hours I’ve worked. The record looks something like this, penciled into a calendar box:

Thursday, October 18
Spanish—1 hour
Typing Notes (on 2 articles)—1 hour
Grading—3 hours

Last week, I was despairing over my inability to work. Then, this week, it occurred to me to count up the total hours I’d logged: 27. I compared it with my total hours two weeks ago: 27.5. What a relief—I didn’t stop working, even though I wasn’t feeling emotionally tough.

My friend The Future Doctor Gale got herself into trouble with time sheets. She made herself sign in and out of her office, and tried to force herself to work eight hours a day. This led to a lot of anxiety and guilt over “missed” work. Her acupuncturist advised her to let herself work a maximum five hours per day instead, and that system is working wonders for her quality of life and productivity level.

I know that a maximum would never work for me—I excel at quitting work early. But I don’t set a minimum either.

No matter how you approach the working week, it’s not good to be too rigid with yourself. In the last three weeks, I’ve worked between 2.5 – 9.5 hours per day. But for me, it’s very reassuring to be able to look back and see that mostly I’ve worked between 4-6 hours per day. Then I can’t make up mean lies about what a lazy good-for-nothing I am.

Note: If you can work 8 hours a day, day after day, week after week, you need to write me and explain your process. Because everything I’ve learned about process in graduate school has proved that 5 is a much more sustainable number

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2 responses to “Time Sheets for Graduate Students: Assets and Liabilities

  1. Thanks a lot for this post, I find it helpful to re-read it every now and then when I find myself feeling inadequate for my inability to work efficiently more than six hours in a day. I always feel like I should be doing more regardless of my achievements, and it’s good to know I’m not the only one to struggle with this!

  2. And I feel better knowing that this post resonated with you! Thanks for commenting!

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