Lisa Wehr's Public Health Blog

Lisa is originally from Sigourney, Iowa. She attended Iowa State University and received her bachelor’s degree in Music in 2010. She is currently a first year Master’s of Public Health (MPH) student in community and behavioral health (CBH). Lisa works on the medicine-psychiatry unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). Through this blog Lisa hopes to let people learn about the CBH department.

This student blog is unedited and does not necessarily reflect the views of the College of Public Health or the University of Iowa.

22 October 2010

4-day Weekends

What did I find to be the hardest thing about starting grad school? All the free time

As an undergrad I had class 5 days a week. And as a music major, most of my classes were classified as "labs"--meaning that I could have up to 3 hours of class time for 1 credit. I believe my lightest semester of undergrad required me to only be in a classroom for 32 hours a week....just shy of a full-time job. So spending 6 hours in a classroom for 6 credits was a HUGE shift.

I will admit that I have really enjoyed my schedule this semester. I only have class on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. However, it sometimes brings along a motivational challenge--not taking all 4 days off from school work. With my school and work responsibilities there are some weeks when I am absolutely beat, but I have been learning to push myself to do something everyday. I do give myself some lighter days, but there are always journal articles to read...

What have I found that helps?
Lists: I'm a list maker, so I always have to-do lists floating around. Most of them are so long that it would be impossible to finish all the tasks in one day, so I use a "line method." I draw a think black line on my list. All of the items above the line must be completed that day. Anything below the line is a bonus.
Planning: Google calendar saves my life. Class, Work, Seminar, Meetings, Appointments. As soon as anything is added to my schedule I immediately put it in google calendar. I can sync it to my iPod touch too, so I have gotten rid of all the post-its that used to control my life (and continually disappeared). At the beginning of each week I print out the week's calendar so I can see the non-negotiables on it. Then I plan what else needs a dedicated space--exercise, some extra intensive studying, commuting time and if I plan to bike to class/work. Each morning I plan the day's schedule with more detail. My one downfall is not planning enough time to finish something, or forgetting to plan transitions times, etc...but I'm learning.
Environment: Knowing when to change up my environment. There are some days when I can get work done at home. These days can be dependent on the type of work I need to get done, my mood and energy levels, and the state of my dog.*

(*This is Zephyr, my Australian Shepherd. I love him to death, but he has endless energy. No lie....I can take him out and run 5-6 miles and instead of wearing him out it essentially energizes him for the day. So clearly, this is a large factor in deciding where to do homework)

Some things get done best in the library at a desk, others are fine in my favorite chairs on the 8th floor of the hospital, sometimes I just need to put in some time and I can put on a movie/tv show that I have seen before and the background stimulates me enough without distracting me that I can work for a lot longer. It's really a matter of finding out what works best for me in different situations.

And if none of that works? It probably is time to take a break. I go for a run, read something for fun, throw Zephyr some tennis balls, or just enjoy the outdoors (it's been a stunning fall here).

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