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UIC TA Handbook - Time Management: One TA's Experience

By Diann Porter

Former Teaching Assistant
Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science
UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Thus we play the fools with the time, and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us.

William Shakespeare


Typical Scenario 1: A graduate student sits at the desk to get a couple of hours work done before leaving for cam­ pus. But what to do? There's so much. Spend 10 minutes trying to decide what to do first. After you get that decided, spend some time worrying about what you aren't doing first. Get disgusted and make a cup of tea. While tea is brewing, get out your books and organize your materials; this takes about 10 minutes. Start work. After a while, discover that you have been staring out the window. Remember a phone call you need to make. Sit back down and get to work. A while later, you discover yourself organizing your paper clips. You get up to stretch your legs and try to refocus your thoughts, after which you allow yourself one quick computer game before getting back to work. You just really get into the work when -- it's time to leave.

Typical Scenario 2: After a busy day, a graduate student sits at the desk to get prepared for the following day. After making a list of everything that needs to be accomplished and prioritizing the items, you get to work. You work diligently at the items on your list, with barely a break, until you discover that it's 1 a.m. Frustrated that you didn't get done half of what needed to be done, you try to sleep any­ way while your work keeps going through your head. You rush to class the next morning and try to get more work done during breaks and over lunch. But you feel the stress of always seeming to be a bit behind -- berating yourself tor what you did not get done instead of being proud of what you did.

Your first reaction upon reading the words "time management" might be "Yeah, right!" Much of the time we feel that time is managing us. The section that follows gives you some techniques tor taking back the management of your time.

But it's important to accept the fact that you will not always make the most efficient use of your time; and even if you are efficient, the effort may not seem like enough. The "typical scenarios" above happen to many graduate students from time to time. Nonetheless, by practicing the strategies in the chapter titled “Managing Your Time,” you will learn to avoid time-wasters, increasing your productivity and reducing stress.

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