With the first term of my masters of science over and (most of) the grades in, I can safely say that the key to my success is simple: time management and relaxation. Success in postgraduate study means managing your time so that research, required reading, job hunting and networking are all given their slot in your daily to-do list. This way, nothing falls by the wayside, you stay on top of your assignments, and, perhaps most importantly, you give yourself time for relaxation and fun.
Completing not one, but two masters has shown me the variety of ways that people manage their work and handle stress, and while I acknowledge that meticulously cataloguing daily tasks, goals, deadlines, and events does not work for everyone, it has certainly worked for me. Setting aside time each Sunday evening to write out my weekly to-do lists, upcoming events and goals makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something each day, like slowly chipping away at my dissertation, my essays, or my never-ending bookmarks of job applications.
It also means I can plan a few hours of each week to devote to things I enjoy outside the academic sphere: yoga, cooking, listening to podcasts about genre fiction and popular literature. Planning this way means that I generally have all my work completed each week by Friday, making my weekends free to do with as I please. I am in fact a huge proponent of preserving the weekend, and make an effort to do so all year, outside of finals.
My planning takes the form of a faux-moleskin journal I picked up from Wilko for about £3. Though this carefully (if colourfully) constructed journal has earned me no end of ridicule from fellow classmates, friends, and my partner, I am confident that without it I would not be able to accomplish even one fourth of the things that fill my daily to-do lists, and I definitely wouldn’t have time to do exciting things like write for the Postgrad Insight Blog. My journal serves as both a to-do list and a calendar; I have a page devoted to deadlines and important dates, solving that conundrum we all face when someone mentions a date on the calendar and we think “Why do I feel like something is going on that day?”
Even in a masters programme focused on the digital age, I still believe in the importance of writing these things down with pen and paper. But whatever you preferred method of transcription, if there is one piece of advice I can pass from one student to another, it is this: manage your time, book yourself moments for relaxation and fun, and you’ll find that you can easily conquer the stresses of postgraduate life.
Emily Keyes, MA Digital Library Management