The importance of maintaining a schedule

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

As I’ve been reading for my comps this summer, there is one little tip or trick that stands out above all others—

It is the importance of maintaining a schedule.

If you know me, you know I’m a creature of habit. Every morning I have the same routine where I put dishes I left out to air dry the day before away, make coffee, make my bed, and do my makeup. I do it this way every day and in that exact order. No deviation. Ever. I’m very boring overall, and probably a little OCD, but I think this also shows me to be reliable as well. You couldn’t exactly set your clock by me, but you could certainly predict what would happen next, which is where I think the boring comes in.

So when I took up this studying for comps, I knew a schedule for myself would be imperative and would also help to keep me motivated. I also knew that the possibility of such a schedule during the early part of summer would be impossible because of other work I had to do (teaching, conference, fellowship, more teaching), and really this was my downfall for studying this summer and led me to not doing a lot of reading until after mid-June. But once I got a schedule going, and forced myself to follow it, I became really productive and things worked out well. The only problem was that I probably didn’t reach this point until July, but at least I got there.

So this is what I do now, and will continue to do so for as long as possible because I think a schedule is the only way I can get through this: In the morning, I do whatever class prep or grading I have to do. When I first started hardcore prepping, I tried to read for comps in the morning, but it didn’t work as well because I tend to eat a very light breakfast, and so I got hungry quickly. Instead, now I eat lunch first and go and read for comps until I feel I have met my quota for the day, which I usually set for 1-2 sources per day. This seems to work out pretty well as I can usually get through at least one source and take good notes on that source, though if I don’t meet a quota that means reading for the weekend. At the end of the day, I go over the notes I took and highlight and review. I repeat things back to myself in my head and try to remember things I had taken notes on previously and connect them to the day’s readings. But the really fun thing I do is that I make notes of what I could argue in my dissertation using these sources. I love that part.

While a schedule isn’t probably necessary for everyone, and I could see where more extroverted or spontaneous people would die in these conditions, it works for me. I also have enjoyed my time reading for comps. I know, right? I have enjoyed my time being able to read, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel anxiety or worry about my upcoming exams. I definitely do feel those things. But it is still great to have all this time to myself to just read. I’ve always been a reader, and so this is really the easy part for me, whereas for some others I can imagine this part is the harder part.

Also, here is a good article about studying for comps from a comp/rhet PhD student. She actually passed and while I have been doing most of what she states here, I certainly could start imagining and looking over past questions, timing myself with those questions, and maybe using some 750words.com. 

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