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Time Management

Graduate work and TA responsibilities are very demanding and require effective time management. Since the international TA must also deal with an unfamiliar language and culture, graduate work and TA responsibilities can consume more time than expected. The following suggestions were offered by experienced international TAs.

Talk to other graduate students who have taken the courses you are planning to take. Find out how much reading and how many papers are required. This way you can avoid taking the most demanding courses all at the same time. You lose time when you discover that your workload is too large and that you must drop a course that you have already spent time on.

There is a saying, "Work expands to fill the time available". If you set a limit on the amount of time you give yourself to do specific tasks, you are more likely to get the work done in a shorter period of time. Set daily and weekly deadlines for each task.

Some TAs try to schedule their courses one right after another. Having an hour between classes often means that the hour is wasted time. If it is necessary to take classes that are one or two hours apart, schedule your TA office hours during that time. This allows you to have larger blocks of time for concentrated study.

When setting up an appointment with a student, professor, or friend do so immediately after a class or your office hours. If your class ends at 3:00, schedule meetings for 3:15. Scheduling a meeting at 4:00 may mean an hour of wasted time.

As a TA, you may have a lot of grading to do during midterms and finals. This makes it important to keep up your own studies as you may not have much time to prepare for your own exams if you are required to grade your students' papers and exams. Although a TA is required to spend 15-20 hours a week on TA duties, some weeks may only require 10 hours of work while during exam time you may end up spending 30 hours a week. Concentrate on your own studies when TA duties are light so you will be prepared for the heavy workload around exam time.

Sometimes TAs find that their duties can be lessened by speaking with the professor of record. One TA had only three students in one section. He spoke with his professor and she agreed that he could combine the smaller section with a larger one. Thus, he had one less class to teach each week. Another TA found that it took weeks to grade the midterm exams. The next semester he spoke with his professor about this and the professor helped him grade the exams. Later, a reader was hired to help with the heavy workload for that class.

These time management strategies have been found useful for many TAs. Of course, we each have our own ways of managing time. One TA said that he plans his office hours late in the day to help him resist his desire to go home in the afternoon. Some TAs find that working in their offices during the evening saves time since less people are around to talk with. One TA explained that he concentrates on his TA duties for two days and then has the rest of the week for his own studies. Another TA reserves mornings for her TA duties and afternoons for her own studies. Planning large time intervals for concentration on one task is a successful time management strategy.

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