Wednesday, April 2, 2014

FAQ: How do you manage!?

I get asked a variation of how do you manage to do all of this a lot when I say I'm a PhD student single Mom. My answer is usually.. depends on the day! When I stop and think about it though, I am able to pull out a few common threads that help me manage all of this insanity.

Motivation 


I want this PhD and I want it badly. When I was 8 I decided I wanted to be a marine biologist, hence my MSc in marine biology and biochemistry. As I grew up I discovered how much I love to teach and decided it would be a PhD and Professor J for the rest of my life. Then I got tossed off track by the curve ball called Boo. And it took a while but I'm back and I really believe I CAN do this and I really want it. Even with the horrible sadness that I battled when Boo was gone, I showed up ready to work and got my stuff done efficiently. To balance everything requires an important life skill...

Time Management 


Lists are my best friend. I have so many different things going on at any given time that I have to be organized and manage my time properly. This semester for example: I'm teaching, growing transgenic soybeans, trying to create a simple genotyping method for selecting my soybeans, making Arabidopsis protoplasts, selecting Arabidopsis transformed seedlings, studying for qualifying exams, reading literature to figure out where to go with my project, taking a seminar course, helping Boo with homework, playing with Boo, blogging, and general housework/adult crap. I try to make a list every week that covers the weekly MUST DO and the weekly like to do for school and one for home. As the visual aid shows above, there is not enough time to get everything done so sometimes you have to.....

Let Stuff Go


There is NOT enough time to get it all done.. it's simply impossible. This is where priorities really come into play. There is, unfortunately, something to be said for due now, do now. A lot of weeks my apartment does not get vacuumed, laundry will not get done until one of us is down to our last pair of undies, if no one has vomited the bathrooms may or may not have been cleaned for a few weeks and even a shower is a luxury some nights. I consider it a win if I get dishes done each night. The week of my lab meeting I get very little studying for quals done because I need to get my presentation in order and the house is a guaranteed disaster zone. Some nights I get nothing done because Boo is sick or just needs extra time and he is my first priority. Second priority is lab with teaching coming up right behind it. Having a perfect apartment, doing perfect research, being a perfect Mom, being perfectly groomed, will never happen. Perfection.. let it go!

I strive to do the best I possibly can, work as hard as I possibly can, but also cut myself slack to know I'm going to screw it up. I'm going to not hit a deadline, I'm going to neglect Boo for a few days when school is nuts, I'm going to go longer than I should between cleaning my house and that is going to be OK! Sacrifices have to be made. After all...
 How about you? Any good ideas for balancing and coping that work well in your lives? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

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