“You’re in grad school now, so… you’ll figure it out.”
My professor’s words when some of us (myself included) carefully mentioned to her that there was a lot of reading. Considering that we meet twice a week and that all of us got jobs and other obligations, it’s difficult to squeeze Rosalind Gill, Amanda Lotz and a bunch of other scholars into our schedule. But alas, we’re in grad school! Just deal with it!
I knew by reputation that our professor would load tons of work on us when I registered for this summer class. I thought to myself that no matter how hard it would get, I would suck it up and fight through it. There’s just no way I’m spending more than two years in grad school.
That said, I’m glad this wasn’t my first class in the grad program (“Gender, Sexuality and the Media” in case you’re wondering). Don’t get me wrong, our professor is a treat! And I love the material! There’s just so much of it. Tons of reading for every session and once a week we got to turn in a response paper to at least one article or chapter. Everyone has to lead the discussion once, which means reading everything, knowing it well, preparing main points and questions, and providing examples. The professor is also asking for written summaries of our reading material and a list of questions. For the end-game, she’s asking for a paper and a final in-class exam. She doesn’t mess around.
My discussion leader was surprisingly fun. We were talking about postfeminist men’s media culture, in this case specifically about male friendships on screen, the bromance and the homosocial enclave. The latter is a term for when a group of men have their own space to freely express themselves, like in Entourage, Men of a Certain Age and Rescue Me. I used the episode “Nelson v. Murdock” from Daredevil on Netflix, which is all about the friendship between Matt and Foggy. It was perfect and incited a great discussion afterwards.
Now I can finally focus on the final project! It can be either a research paper or a research proposal. I’ve decided to do a research proposal. I’ve thought about it all semester really. It will serve well as a draft for when I propose my thesis later this year. More on that another time… It’s due in two weeks (well, 12 days), which isn’t really a lot. I’d love to have an entire month rummaging through research… but like I said earlier, I just gotta deal with it.
And this brings me to time management. I was fortunate to take a workshop on this recently at NCCWSL (National Conference of College Women Student Leaders) so despite the limitations, I don’t feel freaked out about this. Hopefully that sense of calm with stay. I will talk about what I learned in this workshop in detail next month, but for now I want to focus on time management in regards to putting a project together when you have other things on your plate.
First of all, don’t panic. Breathe. Tell yourself it will be alright (telling yourself that enough will make it a reality). If you feel yourself getting stressed or frustrated, simply step away from the project and do something to help you relax. Personally I like to meditate for five minutes or so.
Don’t confuse that with procrastination, of course. As someone who pulled four all-nighters during her undergrad, I beg you not to procrastinate. It’s pure hell trying to finish a project when you’re tired and everything hurts.
A few ways to avoid procrastination is planning, splitting the work into chunks, rewarding yourself occasionally and speaking with your professor.
Actually talk with your professor first. Write down all your ideas, prepare a few questions and then explain what you want to do. Listen to your professor and figure out how to proceed from there. I’m not saying that you have to do everything your professor tells you. It’s your judgment call on which advice to accept and which to reject.
The planning won’t be as tricky as it seems. Begin by looking at your schedule and marking sections of time where you won’t do anything but focus on your project. Set goals for yourself by either turning to your calendar or writing a timeline. I prefer the timeline because it allows more flexibility. Sometimes when we write to-do lists for ourselves and don’t finish everything at once (or “miss” that date we wrote down), we have the tendency to feel like we didn’t do anything. The timeline will give you an idea on where you are in the process. It can also tell you whether you need to move on at some point in order to make the finish line.
Try to be realistic. Think about how you work and how fast you work. (If you know that well enough, perhaps the calendar will work for you.)
If things don’t work exactly as planned, that’s okay. Don’t panic. Breathe. You’re human.
Again, do the work in chunks. You won’t finish a project in one sitting.
Please, if you feel stuck, ask for help. Turn to your professor, your classmates, your mom, I don’t care. Sometimes it may be that you’re just feeling pressured and need to talk with someone. I’ve found that talking about my work really helps the creative process and works as a stress reliever.
Do the best you can. Have fun with it. Don’t even think about the grade, just do your best. Remember that when you turn in your project, knowing you put time and effort into it, you did well. Yes, you did well! You should feel proud.