Students ask me all the time about how in the world can they get organized and be disciplined enough to finish their degree. Let me let you in on my personal organizational secrets to finishing two degrees at the same time while running a business, being active in my church, and making time for family. It really isn’t complicated but it isn’t always easy.
First, get yourself a month-at-a-glance calendar and keep it with you at all times. Get a variety of colored pens and mark things up as follows:
Enter all of your work hours on the squares. Add in all I-better-not-miss-this family events (like your mother’s birthday or your anniversary).
Pen in all of your class meetings, if you have face-to-face classes. Add all of your course assignment due dates, color-coding each class accordingly by using the different colors of ink in your pens. Highlight major assignments.
Okay, now take a look at things. What time are you going to set aside for doing homework? When I was writing my dissertation, I blocked out two hours a day to write. Keep in mind that they were not the same two hours every day; I had to make adjustments for personal scheduling. The important thing was that I was consistent.
For the record, I wrote a 400 page dissertation in 12 months, by keeping to my two hour a day schedule. If I had to miss a day, I made it up over the next week. I literally set an oven timer for 45 minutes at a time. I would work for those 45 minutes and then get up to fluff my pillow, going back to work for another 45 minutes. After another very brief break, I would write for another 30 minutes, and I would be done for the day.
If someone came in to talk or I had to leave the computer, I turned off the timer. Distractions sometimes happened, but they didn’t count towards my two hour time. (My dissertation, which is available on ProQuest, is called “House M.D. and Indirect Communication: A Close Textural Analysis,” in case you want to read it.)
Keep track of assignments, checking them off (do not cross them off because you need to see what you have done) as they are complete. You can do this, but you must be organized and disciplined enough to do it.