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 quick tip is from graduate student Kevin Orner. Read a previous post by Kevin 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.
Differentiating between the urgent and the important and do the important first. Because I’m a visual learner, the Eisenhower Matrix helped me understand the concept. You can see an Eisenhower Matrix chart at the beginning of this article.
It’s simply a 2×2 matrix with urgency on the x-axis and importance on the y-axis. Obviously important and urgent things should be done before not important and not urgent things, but how about urgent and not important vs. not urgent and important? Here the important should win out over the urgent, although urgent things do a greater job at demanding our attention—an email pops up, a text message vibrates our phone, a friend stops by to talk. In graduate school, you graduate when you finish your thesis or dissertation, not when you answer 10,000 emails. That thesis or dissertation is often in quadrant 2, which is in direct competition with the quick wins of email or homework assignments found in quadrant 3.
Align your time with your priorities. I received this piece of advice from a professor who said that she organizes her time based on how she will be evaluated for tenure (e.g. 70% research, 20% teaching, 10% service). If you’re spending 50% of your time on teaching and 20% on service and not spending much time writing grants or manuscripts, you may be in trouble. The same can be applied for graduate students. If we graduate when we complete our thesis or dissertation, then we should be spending the appropriate percentage of our time on the thesis or dissertation. To see how you’re doing in this respect, for one week write down how you spent your time and compare it to your priorities.