Cooking, laundry, driving, schedule planning, you name it someone else has been deciding what I was going to do. This has gotten to the point that it is actually frustrating. Over the last several years I developed a routine. A routine I like very much. I thrive on routine. Repetition, regularity and predictability help me get things done. Without a system of time management, built on routine, very little gets done. For example, the last semester I was at WPI my daily schedule looked something like:
6:50 AM - Wake up
7:00 AM get to WPI by driving or riding my bike
7:15 AM go for 3-6 mile easy run
7:45 AM shower
7:57 AM get into office before 8 but sometimes as late as 8:30
8:00 AM check last night's computer simulations, change variables and run new simulation
8:10 AM blog for 20 minutes
8:30 AM read Runner's World Daily News
8:35 AM check email
9:12 AM head up to department office in search of a cup of coffee
9:15 AM evaluate the previous night's simulation in greater detail, read related scientific reports about finite element heat treating, write my thesis, in general it was work on work.
11AM-2PM At some point I would eat lunch at my desk all depending on when I actually got hungry
4:00 PM head to the gym for running with the cross country or track team
6:30 PM Depending on relative progress of work either head back to office or home to eat. If home then usually head back to school after eating. Sometimes it was just back home to eat and watch tv. If back to office generally stay there about an hour before going home for the night.
11:00 PM In bed, asleep in minutes.
What I liked about this routine:
- I could run twice a day during the daylight
- I found I was usually most productive before 10 AM and after 7 PM when the office was quiet.
- I had inspiration several times on runs of new things to try in my research.
- I chose all of my meals.
- I ate when I was hungry, not at a certain time.
- My hours were flexible so I could come back and work 7-10 or even 11 PM if something was getting done. I could also take off at 4 for the day if things were going especially well.
- My schedule allowed me to go out to eat or go over to a friend's house.
- I found I had greater consistency by working every day albeit less on Saturday and only a few hours most Sundays.
My routine was nearly entirely necessity driven. I ate when I was hungry. The same for laundry and other errands. I had the flexibility to work whatever hours I wanted, which until you've had a thesis I am not sure you will understand the desire to come back to work after supper and work on some difficult problem. It constantly hangs over your head and graduate school turns into working all the time combined with serious destressing. I learned to water ski last semester and ran far more miles that I ever had before. I attribute my extreme productivity that semester to a huge focus on finishing my thesis and wanting to get the most out of my life after Pakistan.
I once feared the 9-to-5. Now I think that consistency would be nice. At least, I would like to do-it-myself. Two weeks ago I made the quote, "you don't have to be the hardest worker, as long as you are trying to be the hardest worker." In other words, always be doing something that is positively productive in some way. Be it running which benefits mostly just yourself or building a book shelf for a friend which takes lots of time and energy yet has no monetary profit.