Hanging by a Thread…

By Guadalupe Saldivar, IRT ’14

A colleague once asked me, “How do you do it? How do you manage it all?” She asked after I shared that I was in a Ph.D. program, a mother of a baby girl, and was working full-time. My answer was simple, “I compartmentalize each of my responsibilities”. However, this response felt dismissive and overly simplified. If she were to ask me again, I would have a more helpful answer.

When you are managing multiple responsibilities, it is so important to know what you value and what are your personal boundaries. For example, between the time I am off work and my daughter’s bedtime, I do not respond to anything Ph.D. related or work-related. Below are some additional lessons I have learned in managing multiple responsibilities:

 1. Take care of yourself. While I was an undergraduate, my self-care was the first to go when I became busy with projects and assignments. I wanted to take care of everything outside of myself before paying attention to what I needed. As you might imagine, this was not sustainable whatsoever for my physical and mental health. Now, I make an effort to prioritize myself and my health. Although I am still working through this lesson, I have already seen how much more efficient I am in managing multiple responsibilities.

2. Productivity ≠ Self Worth. This lesson was one of the most difficult ones to learn. Growing up, I was externally motivated by grades and honors. It was not until my last year in graduate school that my personal life forced me to take a step back and focus on my emotional and spiritual wellbeing. From that moment, I focus on the actual learning process and not on grades or recognition. I am also no longer striving for perfection but rather striving for growth. Lastly, I learned that my worth was not determined by how much I produced.

3. Budget Time. It might seem extreme, but I create a schedule for EVERYTHING. I set recurring birthdays, homework assignments, cooking time, and reminders to make hair appointments on a calendar. My partner jokes that I set reminders to remind me to make an appointment. I know how much time I need for each activity and my limit. For example, if I take more than a certain number of meetings a day, I will feel burnt out. Another example is that I am aware that my reading comprehension is not that good at night, so I read on the weekends during the day. Little details like that when you are planning is helpful! I know this does not work for everyone, but finding a time management system that works for you goes a long way!

4. Set Boundaries. As I mentioned before, I do not answer messages/emails related to work or school during the time I spend with my family. It is equally important to know what boundaries you have to avoid stretching yourself too thin. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you have to say no. Remember that you cannot do everything for everyone. Knowing what you value can help serve as a compass and can help you decide what deserves your time.

5. Live Your Life. For most of my graduate school, I did not dedicate time to enjoy myself and do the things I liked doing. I spent a lot of time studying and working but little time enjoying my life. Although it is important to focus and be diligent in your academics, I also think it is important to take time for yourself. There is a difference between being committed vs. being consumed by your work.

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