Admissions Blog

Empire State of Time Management

By Reena Mensigh '24
Posted Oct 31 2023

If you're in the midst of your SIPA application process, you likely find yourself in one of three categories: a dedicated student, a working professional, or perhaps caught in the whirlwind of life's in-between phases. This blog is focused on managing your time, and integrating your current commitments with your aspirations for academic and professional success. Not only is this skill necessary during the application phase of your journey to graduate studies at SIPA, but it will also be useful to master this during both years at Columbia.

During your first year, you’ll navigate an exciting, sprawling new city full of endless possibilities, all while juggling the demands of coursework and pursuing internship applications. In your graduating year, you might find yourself frequenting your favorite city spots, all while tackling final year courses, capstone projects, and job applications. It can be challenging to dedicate the time to presenting yourself in the best way possible for something that feels like a distant goal when daily life is so full. Here are 5 Tips to help you live in the moment and also work towards your bright academic and professional future!

1. Time is within your control, and that’s great! Learning to recognize your immediate needs will make it easier to reduce distractions and avoid procrastination. Realizing that your time is in your hands can help you make the most of your day-to-day moments. This intentional autonomy can also deepen your understanding of your daily needs and whether adjustments are needed in your mid-term or long-term goals. Managing your time isn't about struggling to control it or fearing it's controlling you. The most effective way to optimize your time involves assessing where you are and following through.

2. Learning when to juggle… and when to drop a ball As essential as it is to know when to welcome new opportunities or embark on new applications, it's equally vital to evaluate your commitments. This involves a personal assessment of what is worth incorporating into your life at any given moment. Remember, this can change over time, and that's perfectly okay. There are times when it's best to welcome more into your schedule, and other times when you might need to scale back. The book Hell Yeah Or No articulates this distinction. This skill ties into the first tip with regards to taking ownership of your time, prioritizing down-time, and recognizing when tasks become reduced to busy-work.

3. Daily Deadline - Don’t Drown! One strategy to avoid starting the day overwhelmed by a long To-Do List or ending the day frustrated that you didn’t complete that list, can be to set one major goal for the day. Having one significant objective sharpens your focus and can create a sense of purpose that improves your motivation throughout the day. The more motivated you are and the less immediate pressure you feel, the less likely you’ll become distracted by minor tasks or irrelevant concerns. The sense of achievement from accomplishing the big goals might also outweigh the satisfaction of checking off a multitude of minor tasks, while the biggest one looms over you.

4. Seven-Day Schedules, Creating an effective schedule involves a series of steps. First, it's crucial to conduct thorough research to pinpoint the hard deadlines for your SIPA application. Keep in mind that these deadlines can vary, particularly if you're applying for a national or international Dual Master's Degree. The process becomes even more intricate when you're applying for internships or entry-level positions, as each application typically has its own set of deadlines. List the hard deadlines for your current academic or professional pursuits, as well as your application deadlines, including administrative deadlines, and personal commitments. It helps to colour-code based on their broad categories or in terms of high, medium, or low importance. Choose the first three deadlines and for each one identify the most important items towards accomplishing them.

5. Distractions & Procrastination. When limiting distractions, it’s also important to listen to your body and work on differentiating between genuine needs, like stretching or eating, and procrastination. It can help to set your technology to Do Not Disturb mode while completing a set of tasks or when your productivity is stronger.

SIPA also offers specific resources targeting anxiety management, skills to regulate emotions and manage stress, as well as mindfulness and sleep workshops. For current students, remember to check your email for SIPA Wellness Newsletters for campus resources! These resources include virtual support spaces for graduate students and services from Columbia Health. By implementing these tips and taking advantage of available resources, you can enhance your time management skills and maintain a balanced approach to your academic and professional journey at SIPA and Columbia University.