Rachel writes: Budgeting time (and energy)

Like many Extension School students, I work full time. This year I have also taken on some freelance work, and I volunteer as national secretary for a professional society to which I belong.  I generally have a lot to do in any given day. Therefore, one course per semester is what I prefer, so I can fully concentrate on it.

For me, time management is akin to budget management. I try to avoid thinking in terms of my total to-do list, which can feel overwhelming; instead I budget the hours in, say, an evening or a morning for several tasks and give myself the freedom of deciding the order in which to do it all, based on what I am inclined to do first. It’s like having a wad of cash and deciding how to best spend it.

It’s not just time–energy is an issue, too. I am talking about both physical and mental energy: I know, for example, that my mental energy is at its best early in the morning. So I generally save the “thinking” tasks–writing, editing–for those hours. More rote tasks, such as typing notes from a teleconference, or posting image files to an FTP server for one of my freelance clients, I can do in the evening after a full day of work, when I may be physically tired.

Reading time, I have found, can be budgeted in all sorts of ways and under all sorts of conditions, because it is so enjoyable. Normally I budget my commuting time as reading time. I usually schedule a couple of hours each evening for reading, and I always read with a pen, so I can easily later find my scribbles and underlinings which will remind me what struck me about the text. Those scribbles make essay-planning easier.

As busy as I am, I also try to budget some socializing time, time to be alone and watch a favorite DVD, as well as to take a walk somewhere interesting and reflect. Oddly, I’ve realized that no task, after it’s completed, has taken quite as much time or energy as I first imagined it would.


  1. Daisy
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    I found this post very encouraging knowing that I am not alone in the struggle of balancing a full-life with part-time studies. The work day was loooong and strenuous and keeping focus on the latest assignment tonight is certainly tedious but a little less so knowing that my experience is shared with others!

  2. Gabriell
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your post. I recently moved to MA., and it’s been quiet an overwhelming experience for me. I work full time as well, and other’s don’t realize, despite the fact that my job has a desk, it sucks the enegy out of you, and find yourself going into “autopilot” mode. Please continue to write encouraging posts, giving me a positive outlook that surviving HES and Cambridge is possible.

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