Time management – private sector vs grad school

How effectively are we using our time as graduate students? When I was pursuing my master’s degree a while back I wasn’t too concerned with this issue because I was less aware of the pool of knowledge surrounding me. My goal was to just do well in school and as long as I got good grades I was happy. I was ofcourse much younger then and such a philosophy sounded more than reasonable. When I graduated I thought I knew a lot because I had done great in school, however after I started working I realized that I knew very little. I bought more books when I was working than when I was a student.

As far as the time dedicated to my profession is concerned, as a practicing engineer I was working at least 8 hours a day and many times I was also working evenings and weekends. So I was doing every thing I could. There were many times where I would find myself in stressful situations but I felt that I was learning a lot and a weekend off or a vacation felt well deserved.

In graduate school on the other hand the level of accountability is not as demanding as the private sector for many reasons. First and foremost we are expected to work a least 20 hours a week compared to the 40 hours in the private sector. The consequences of poor performance in grad school are much milder than the private sector. In grad school if you under perform in an exam you get a B which is not a big deal. This is due to the fact the the professors are very lenient and liberal in grading. In the private sector if you don’t perform well you may loose you job.

So from a time management perspective there are stronger incentives in the private sector to effectively manage time. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that graduate students are  working very hard, however the relatively more relaxed environment in grad school allows us to have fun when we feel like it and get things done a later time. When you start abusing with this liberty or flexibility, then you get to the point when you do the minimal required work  and spend the rest of the time doing something else. I don’t think this is the ideal balance.

I think academe is a great place to work in and if someone is self-motivated, then that person can strike the balance between having a fulfilling professional life and a meaningful social life.

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