Pie-ing out the semester.

I’m a person that is used to doing six or fourteen things at once. I had an undergraduate semester where I took 27 credits hours. For two years I was President of three clubs. When I was an RA I skipped class to help a suicidal resident. I graduated cum laude instead of summa cum laude for a reason. I was too busy doing some weeks to perfect assignments. I regret nothing, because I was still learning.

But here I am now a graduate student. I submitted my final assignment yesterday, so my first semester is officially over. I took six credits while I spent the summer working and it was a comfortable semester. Now that summer is done, I need to start planning for Fall. Do I continue in my default juggling state, or do I pace myself? Rabbit or turtle? I need pie to help sort this out.

In March of my junior year I attended my university’s alternative spring break in Washington, DC. It was an incredible experience. One of the moments I’ve kept with me since happened in a break out evening session post-volunteering. We were instructed to make a list of everythingthat we do and how many hours each activity took up of our week. The point of the exercise was to show students that they could find the time to volunteer. I was surprised that with classes, work, clubs, meetings, and scheduled volunteering over a quarter of my time was empty. So, I made a pie chart to plan for now.

Edited Disclaimer: A pie chart is a very simplified approach that isn’t intended to replace a planner or personal calendar. The use of it is just to map out the (general) time in a non-traditional way in order for someone to think about their time differently. 

The chart includes my weekly responsibilities during the school year: work time as a GA, time commuting to FSU, class time, recommended homework time per my course load, volunteer time as a SAC for Amnesty, and even sleep (a full 8 hours! Do people really do that?). I’m entering grad school straight out of undergrad, single, no kids, and with a GA position instead of full-time job. My time outlook probably appears very different from some other MLIS students. I even included 15 hours of allotted “mental health time.” That allotment gives me time for favorite TV shows, some leisure reading, and sometimes cooking wonderfully long meals. I may have missed something and things could change, but as it stands, I have 33 empty hours every week.

So, what should I do with it?

Get a part-time job to save money? Volunteer at a local museum to get experience? Take a fourth class? Or should I learn Russian or take up archery?

A part-time job would likely call for twenty hours a week, whereas the other ideas fall along a 5-10 hour range per week. My current plan is to complete my MLIS and certificates in December 2013. The final semester would be 12 credits, six museum internship and six regular classes. In order to achieve this, I would have to do another semester at 12 credits in the upcoming three semesters. Because of this, I am strongly learning toward adding a fourth class to my Fall semester.

To MLIS students or if you could go back to your MLIS days, what would you do with your extra time? As students should we be utilizing the extra time to supplement our study, or to balance life out? Anyone out there that wants to throw in their two cents of advice?


3 thoughts on “Pie-ing out the semester.

  1. Liz P. August 9, 2012 / 10:24 am

    I think this is a very personal issue, but I would caution you to remember to eat, exercise, do errands,, shower, etc. I think your pie chart would work for a few weeks, but what if you get a cold? Or a particularly long assignment? Or have to go to a doctors appointment? You won’t necessarily have the flexibility to recover. I took a full load of 12 credits all through grad school (in my program it was expected), so I’m sure you could do that without too much trouble, but be wary about adding too much else in. (And as a Russian speaking librarian, I recommend Spanish. It’s more useful and marketable.)

    Also, be careful about booking all of your time before the semester begins – you never know when an amazing opportunity will pop up. If you’ve already assigned all of your time, you won’t be able to grab it. It’s those moments that tend to make you more marketable as a job applicant than how many classes you took.

    Disclaimer: Obviously you can handle being hugely booked. But remember, grad school (and particularly library school, which is technically a professional program) isn’t like undergrad. In some ways it’s easier, in other ways not, but it’s so important to keep yourself from burning out. I know you scheduled mental health time, but a little extra might not hurt.

    • Chealsye Bowley August 9, 2012 / 1:13 pm

      Thank you for your reply, Liz.

      It is a personal issue, and the pie chart is not intended to take the place of a personal planner. Besides for work and class time, the rest of the numbers can change any week. I just appreciate the approach because it helps present time to me in a different way than I am used to seeing it, and therefore makes me think about my time differently. I’m not looking for something to take up the 33 hours exactly, but something to utilize the extra time well. I’ve edited in a disclaimer to that effect. My hope is to get a bit of advice from a MLIS student perspective (current and former) on what is most beneficial to me as a student and as a person.

      The language idea was meant to be a fun mental health kind of exercise. Spanish is by far the more practical language to chose, I know. Russian just calls to me as a bucket list item and a relevant reading-knowledge language for my interests if I decide to eventually do a PhD.

      I really liked your point about giving room for the flexibility for grabbing amazing opportunities up. That is an important way of looking at time as a student and those will probably arise after the semester is largely underway. I’ll keep that in mind for now and future semesters. From the sound of it, I think you mostly are encouraging to use the extra time to find more of a life balance but having a fourth class wouldn’t be overextending myself.

      I appreciated getting your perspective, thank you!

  2. justindlc November 10, 2012 / 11:42 pm

    If I could go back I would not have worked a full-time job during my MLIS and would’ve engaged more in the studies, organizations, research. Since you have those pretty much down I vote for using your free time… for free time. I recently had a job interview where, although I had worked full time in an office for five years and went through four degree programs in my studies, my biggest form of experience was the stuff I had done in my free time for fun. Building websites, engaging in social media trends. Although some of that is part of the professional development of MLISers, you really, truly, can never know when the stuff you do in your free time will help you out in the long run. So engage/indulge in some things you have fun doing, regardless of what you think their practical application might be. I guess I used to think all those older people talking about how the college days were the best were all talking phooey, but… those days are actually pretty cool because you don’t HAVE to be in one place for 8 hours a day. So, enjoy. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s