These are some thoughts about how I organize my time, which may be particularly useful to people who are university students, and particularly students whose degrees consist primarily of major research projects. These thoughts should be taken in the context of what I wrote in my “List of Remembrances” and my “Summary of the Christian Philosophy of Education” in order to be kept in the place which I intend them to occupy.
My present circumstances
As a PhD candidate, my thesis research, writing and consultation is basically all that is required of me, at least for this year, my first year. –Besides this, there are also some small assessments, to check that I am aware of copyright regulations, etc. I also believe that I will present aspects of my research in dissertation seminars in the coming 2 or 3 years. But besides these things just-mentioned things, there are no exact time regulations imposed on me, saying how I must use my time, or how many days/hours I must go to university. Consultations with my supervisor, Dr Jay Johnston, are not determined by the university, but, rather, we personally organize appointments for meetings as frequently as we think is necessary, and frequency of these may fluctuate.
Therefore, the hours I spend at university are the exception rather than the rule. Also, because I live in the Central Blue Mountains (New South Wales, Australia), it takes me about 2 hours to get to Sydney University by train, which makes 4 hours travel back-and-forth on any day that I decide to go in. So I won’t ordinarily make a trip to university unless I have some research-related reason to.
Since my timetable is not made for me, it is up to me to determine how best to use my time. Even though, from a university perspective, my timetable is “free”, this does not mean that nothing happens except what I choose. For instance, there are the necessities of life which must occur and occupy time. There are also other commitments and obligations which I have. Therefore, when I think about how to organize my time, I try to “pen-into” my personal timetable the things I can best judge as being relatively indispensable or immovable. This makes it easier for the research-related things to then fall into place.
There are some days of my week on which I have customary work – I am employed, as a piano tutor, working either from home or at a school. These are business contracts, and therefore I have the obligation to be at work at the set times. There are, though, other days in the week on which I do not have work. Penning in, also, that I have church on Sundays, prayer meetings on Wednesday evenings, and Bible study on Friday evenings, my weekly timetable turns out looking something like this:
My weekly timetable
Sunday – church – no work
Monday – Piano tutoring, 2:00pm-2:30pm, and 4:30pm-5:30pm
Tuesday – nothing
Wednesday – Piano tutoring, 1:00pm-5:00pm. Then prayer meeting in the evening.
Thursday – nothing
Friday – Piano tutoring, 12:00pm-4:30pm. Then Bible study from 6:45pm onwards.
Saturday – nothing
The days which are marked “nothing” are the days on which I have no definite time obligations. These are the days on which I do my most significant PhD research and writing. Over time, a number of ‘to-do’s kept recurring in my mind recently, as needful for me on my “nothing” days. So I penned them down as follows:
My “nothing-days” timetable
- Get out of bed.
- Take medications.
- Have a glass of water.
- Have breakfast.
- Have coffee.
- Read a chapter of the Bible with my family.
- Exercise (on exercise bike or by walking).
- A little research work and prayer for people on my prayer list.
- More work.
- Have a midday rest – I need this.
Many of these things are so simple that one might think a person need not write them down. I have personally found them needful to write down because, unless I plan to do them, I might forget to do them, and I judge them all to be needful for me, and do not wish to forget them. Having written these points down on a little note which sits on my desk in my room, I have become accustomed to bearing many of them in mind, and this has caused me to be more aware of the passing of time in different situations.
The matter of Exercise (point 7) is one which I have generally neglected. But lately I’ve been using the exercise bike in our garage on every weekday, and gradually increasing the amount of exercise I do. As a research student, it is tempting to stay absorbed in books or writing all day. But it isn’t good for the body. Conversely, it is very advantageous to do exercise.
Before commencing my PhD I did a Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. This is also not an area of study involving vigorous exercise. In my family we also just generally have not been the most enthusiastic about sports – though we participated in them gladly if occasions offered themselves at picnics, etc. We have rather been much more enthusiastic about the arts and other such things. So it has been particularly needful to me to, somewhat contrary to custom, set aside time for exercise in my daily routine.
The idea of a midday rest period (point 11) may seem somewhat odd to some. But this really just involves me lying down and closing my eyes. Some might not find this needful, but I do think I have found this necessary and, again, most advantageous. This helps me to divide my day, but also gives me strength for the second part of the day. This may perhaps last half an hour to an hour.
It is quite important for a research student to take time away from their books, and be alone to meditate on what they have been reading/writing, without distraction.
Research times may consist entirely of reading, entirely of writing, or a combination of both.
Another important matter to think about is money. I generally keep to the rule of buying no more than one book per week. This is to learn self-control, since there are other expenses associated with living.
Piano tutoring has proven to be greatly beneficial to my research work, and vice versa. Working primarily with children and young adults, of varying degrees of musical ability and life experience, I am required to examine my teaching methods from numerous points of view, and this helps me in my research work.
I hope these thoughts will be helpful to others who either (1) are in similar circumstances to myself, or (2) are looking for examples of time organization. I intend to write more on this topic in subsequent articles.
All blessings in Christ.