Confessions of an RA: Lists Are Your Friends
Sunday, 1/9/11, 10:03 am: With spring semester and a fresh start just around the river bend, I thought this week I’d talk about the important lessons I’ve learned this year in ti—
Sunday, 1/9/11, 3:16 pm: Sorry ‘bout that. I realized as I was writing that I had totally forgotten about a mandatory staff meeting that started at 10. So as I was saying, being an RA has really forced me to work on my time management skills. It took me about two months of trying to be both an RA and a full-time student to realize that if I don’t at least loosely map out my day each morning, I literally don’t have time to finish all my school work, give my residents the—
Monday, 1/10/11, 9:32 pm: Mea culpa, mea culpa! I forgot that I needed to cash a check at the bank before it closed at 4. Anyway, If I don’t take steps to manage my time properly, by, for example, making a list of all the things I need to do each day and crossing them off as I go, I end up forgetti—
Tuesday, 1/11/11, 11:38 pm: I end up forgetting about the many, many things I need to do.
Have I made my point?
One of the most important life skills I’ve learned from being an RA is how to manage my time effectively. In high school, I was a big fish in a little pond. When I arrived at college, I totally overestimated my ability to handle the challenge of university-level work. First semester freshman year I spent a lot—and I mean British Lindsay Lohan from The Parent Trap, “a lot, a lot”—of time procrastinating. Though my grades didn’t necessarily suffer, by winter break, I was totally burned out by the lack of schedule and sleep. Second semester, I vowed things would change. I would wake up at 8 every morning (no matter how late I went to bed) and spend less time on YouTube watching cute cat videos like “surprised kitty” (at this point, I should clarify that most of my YouTube hours were logged with friends…definitely not alone in my dorm room with only my sock puppets for company). While second semester saw improvement, I never became really good at (or understood the full value of) time management.
That changed last fall, when I became an RA. The first two months were absolute Dantean Hell. Not only was I adjusting to a job that literally requires you to work 24 hours a day, but I was also taking a graduate-level course in Ancient Greek and acting as an officer in three clubs on campus. I quickly learned that if I wasn’t going to sink into the abyss of overly committed college students and fail at my job/life, I had to learn how to manage my time.
I realized when I ended up missing a bunch of meetings and deadlines at the beginning of last semester that I needed to start doing something to keep better track of my life. The first step was to make lists. Lists are absolutely wonderful. Kudos to the genius who invented them. In the spirit of organization, I now rise every morning, sing to the birds, make coffee, and then write down the 5 bajillion things I have to that day on a little sticky note. The time-sensitive or extra important items get a little star. Here is an example of a list I made in October:
- Clean room
- Respond to email from boss****
- Finish translation***
- Finish reading for Eng 461***
- Pick up package
- Watch Glee on hulu
- Hang fliers
- Make gravestones for Haunted House
- Talk to resident about incident from last night
- Honors Council meeting at 9
As I go through my day, I cross everything off as I complete it. Not only do I feel like I’ve been productive when I’ve crossed something off, I rarely miss deadlines or meetings anymore.
I also pack my backpack for the entire day in the morning. A lot of times I have these odd little pockets of time between class that aren’t long enough to justify going back to my dorm, but aren’t short enough that I can head to my next class. For cases like this, I plan ahead before I leave my room and bring along any homework I still need to finish but isn’t required for class that day. Then I spend a productive 25 minutes in Starbucks feeling intellectual as I sip chai tea and peruse Aristotle’s Metaphysics.
I’ve found that taking advantage of these little windows of time is key to balancing my evenings. When I get back to my dorm at night, I’m usually too tired to do any serious studying, and almost always have a meeting to attend or a program to run anyway. By getting some of my work out of the way during the day, I not only have time for my extracurriculars at night, but can also afford to spend time with my residents or even watch a cat video or two.
Now I know I’ve made my life sound all hunky dorey and perfectly planned out, but in reality, despite my attempts at scheduling, things come up, homework takes longer than anticipated, and power naps sometimes trump working on homework during those little pockets of time. Despite all that, I’ve found that even aiming to keep a schedule, regardless of how accurately I attend to it, is much more efficient and less stressful than doing whatever whenever. This semester, I challenge you to give these time management tips the old college try for two solid weeks. New-year-new-you and all that jazz aside, you’ll thank me later.
How do you stay organized?
Related post: Confessions of an RA: Avoiding Trouble in 2011