Organising your day: the typical life of a postgrad student
Many students who are considering taking on a postgraduate degree often wonder what the day-to-day experience of being a postgraduate student is like, and it’s a question that is hard to answer. Everybody is different, studies different things and therefore organises their time differently. However there are some commonalities between postgraduate degrees that mean there are some general dos and don’ts about organising your time as a postgraduate student.
A master’s student should be spending a few hours a day minimum doing degree work, with this varying depending on whether your degree is taught or research. Taught students must timetable time for their classes as well as for papers they need to write, plus the associated reading and research that is necessary to successfully complete their program. For research students, making a timetable with your deadlines for the year and then doing a little each day is the best way forward. A PhD student should be treating their degree like a full time job, and spend the corresponding about of time on their degree.
If you’re wondering what a sample day would look like as a postgraduate, then here is a quick guide to day-to-day postgrad life.
Mornings for a postgrad all depend on whether you are a morning person or not. Always keep in mind that the earlier you wake up, the more likely it is that you can have evenings free to have fun. However, the less sleep you have, the harder it becomes to concentrate. Postgraduate students need a lot of motivation and drive to stick to their work because they are responsible for themselves, and this is obviously going to be difficult if you are falling asleep. Making sure you get your eight hours a night is essential, so if you need to sacrifice a little mornings to do this then it may be worth it.
If you have errands to run, try and get them out of the way in the morning. It’s easier to run to the supermarket on a Monday morning than battling it out trying to buy ready-meals in the post-5pm rush. Once you’ve done everything that needs to be done that day, settle down and try to get some work done.
Afternoons should be your productive time. You’re not as flustered and bleary-eyed as in the morning, but it’s not yet too late that your concentration drops off. After lunch, try get in at least 2-3 hours of reading and research to get yourself going. As long as you’re doing something every day, you won’t fall too far behind.
It is a good idea to try and keep your evenings free to relax and socialise, however this should be the first thing you do sacrifice if you’re running out of time to do something for your postgraduate course. It is better that you sacrifice ‘fun’ from weekday evenings and at least keep your weekend to unwind rather than giving up vital days of rest.
It is important for postgraduate students to come up for air every once in awhile, and the weekend should be the chance. Plan fun things to do like going out with friends, or even just a few hours of mindlessly watching movies or playing video games. Block out your degree for awhile: it will feel good and it is the best way to de-stress.
Many postgrads must do research themselves that can involve trips away or periods where the workload will be heavier than usual. If during these times you must work during the weekend, make sure you give yourself extra chill-out time afterwards. Life is about balance, and the best way to ensure you do your best work is to treat yourself well.