Tips for Grads: Scheduling your summer

By Olivia Gacka, PhD Student

Author’s note: Each year at this time, we dedicate Tips for Grads to one particular theme, taken from one of the DiscoverPD facets of professional development, that is explored through a series of topics throughout the summer. This year, I’ll focus on the idea of managing projects and people, and the first thing I’m going to talk about is planning your summer!

“It’s still May,” I was telling myself just recently, “I have so much time to work on that article, coordinate this project, have some rest time, and prepare everything for when I move apartments in July!” As soon as I felt myself getting comfortable with all the time I have this summer, I knew I had to make a plan. It may be true that we have plenty of time to do all the things we want to do over the next couple of months, and should certainly not panic about it, but a surefire way to make sure we don’t get everything we want out of this summer is to let time management fall by the wayside.

Here are some simple things to think about as you plan your summer:

  • Write it out: I will always advocate for mapping out your schedule and completion goals on an actual calendar, if anything just for the visual aspect of it, but if you prefer an electronic version that’s great too. There is a big difference between telling yourself “I’m doing X, Y, and Z this summer” and actually writing it out in a way that allows you to see how each day or week will work, how much time you are left with, and when you should expect to start seeing results. Doing so will help alleviate the shock when August is here in what will feel like two minutes
  • Remember the little things: When we think about scheduling, we tend to think about the big ticket items like work, school, a conference we’re attending, etc. But don’t forget to write in the smaller things that always add up to much more than we expect. Remember to include things like that 5k you’re running, or the day the new season of your favorite show is premiering, or those couple of hours you agreed to help your friend move in a few weeks. This will give you a much more realistic picture of how much time you have to work with
  • Schedule relaxation: Here’s part of why I like a physical calendar. Depending on the amount of things you have going on this summer, take a marker and block out a couple hours a day, a day a week, or a week a month, so that you physically cannot schedule anything during that time. It’s so easy to tell yourself you have so much free time to relax, but that is also exactly the first thing to go when you add little projects or commitments as they come. Setting that boundary with others and with yourself will help protect some essential rest time so you can come into the fall semester refreshed and ready to go!

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.