As the days grow colder and the to do lists grow longer, ESN is sharing a series of time management tips, interspersed with longer reflections on aspects of our relationship to time. Today’s reflection is from graduate student Kateri Collins. You can read more of Kateri’s work for ESN here or click here for the rest of the time management series. Like many of the topics we publish on, time management is an area that combines opportunities for practical growth and spiritual formation. Our goal is to encourage readers to steward the gift of time God has given us, using it to love God and others and live out Christ’s Kingdom.
First off I want to note the time this time management blog is being written; it is currently 2:35am! You are probably wondering, why is she writing in the middle of the night? Did she not go to sleep? Does she have horrible sleep hygiene? The answer to those questions is I suffer from insomnia, which is a sleep disorder defined as the inability to sleep. On the flip side due to insomnia, my body will often “crash” and go into hibernation where I sleep for days at a time as time just passes by. You might want to feel sorry for me and say wow that sounds horrible. In a sense it is, but I have radically accepted this, and use my sleepless nights to my advantage. This blog is particularly for those who too might sufferer with insomnia, work crazy hours, or have weird sleeping patterns as this is not uncommon.
I am not going to lie, trying to balance either not sleeping or sleeping too much is a tricky balance in trying to be productive in grad school. My time management skills have had to shift during this particular season of life. Rather than I internally fight sleep, toss and turn in bed for hours, I get up. When I realized this was my new pattern I decided, well you are awake and correct sleep hygiene says get out of bed! I figured out that working during the day or evening like majority of people was not going to work for me due to the fact that by those times cognitively I’m not at my best due to lack of sleep. This means that now most days I get the majority of my work done between the hours of 3-10am. You would be amazed at the amount of work I get done! This leaves room for me to go to medical appointments, hang out with people or family, or rest guilt free because I already did my work for the day.
I think another part of time management is having a good working space. This can be a number of things for many people. For me, this meant often going to Starbucks when they opened and working for 4-5 hours straight until my cognitive mind had enough. I am not a big library fan and I often refer to Starbucks as my “library!” Who can resist free Wi-Fi and free coffee refills!? Secondly, I recently moved on my own into my own place and I have an office space where I have a cozy and organized space to do work. This makes a huge difference in having a specific space to be focused and do work.
Due to complex medical issues besides insomnia, I often have to work consistently for long periods of time, such as between 5-7 hours, and get as much work done as possible because I know that there might be a possibility I will be unable to work for days at a time due to a variety of issues.
Part of time management is taking advantage of your time well and prioritizing what is necessary. Each week, what helps me to prioritize between my personal life and graduate work means keeping an electronic calendar with various personal and school related appointments as well as writing out a list each week of the work that needs to be completed. Having a physical list of both assignments and personal tasks helps to keep me organized and when I have time, I can work on those lists and check off one by one as they get completed.
If I can give you only one tip that you take away from this piece it is to listen to your body and personal needs, and adjust your schedule based on your physical or emotional needs. Everyone’s life pattern changes over time and we often have to adjust how we manage time based on current life circumstances. Sometimes that means being very creative to take advantage of extra time in the day or for many others little time in the day due to a variety of other responsibilities. What I can say is find a space where you can work and be productive that is a safe and comfortable space as well as find times to work where you are cognitively at your best and can accomplish a great deal. This happens to just be between the hours of 2-10am for me.
Sometimes we do not understand why God has give us certain time frames or life circumstances, but what I can say is trust him because you never know how something that seems weird or out of place such as working in the middle of the night will bless you! I can testify that my new life schedule has not been for nothing. God has blessed me in a special way I would have never expected and it honestly would not have occurred if I was quote “having a normal night’s sleep.” I have been pleasantly surprised and I invite you to meet God where you are in your current life and how you can maximize the extra or use the minimum time you have based on your life circumstances and life responsibilities.