Now that my spring semester has started, in which I am taking three classes and auditing a fourth, plus working in a research assistantship, I am finding myself pretty busy most days. But the days are quite different in how that busyness is structured. Some days, I have a lot of things scheduled–I have to be in class at specific times, recurring meetings occur in between them, and assignments are due. Other days, though, I have nothing on my calendar but I still need to get a lot of stuff done. (For example, in my second week I was assigned 395 pages of reading across all of my classes, in addition to writing and lab assignments. Oof.)
On all of these days, I rely a lot on to-do lists to keep track of what needs to be done, but I am finding quite a difference when it comes to getting started. The days with wide-open time are the hardest: I end up with a list of tasks but no structure in terms of when to do what, or in what order. I usually start out those days feeling pretty overwhelmed by the volume of things to be done, but also knowing that they don’t all have to be done on that day…which is a little bit of a safety valve, but ultimately doesn’t really help, because not having a clear outline of what needs to get done that day only adds to the decision paralysis that often results.
I always do manage to get started, though, and usually I fall back on the strategy of starting with the thing that’s due first. So this week I did the readings for my classes in the order in which the class meetings are scheduled during the following week, and that has worked out pretty well. I also had to leave time to do the other assignments, of course, but this early in the semester they are not too time-consuming.
Where this strategy can become a problem is when it comes to the big end-of-semester projects that each class inevitably has: if I focus on putting one (metaphorical) foot in front of the other and doing the next thing that is due, eventually the next thing due is a 20-page paper, and it would really be better if I started that a little earlier. Luckily, my classes this semester all seem to build in some intermediate steps toward those big final projects, so I don’t have to adapt my strategy too much, but some classes don’t. So it’s good to keep those things in mind as I go.
For now, I am going to dive back into getting this week’s work done. I might post again in a few days, with a little tidbit of theory I’ve been reading, and/or some musings on my developing research project related to autistic identity. Stay tuned!