What's an Emergency Fund of Time? Answer: A Student's Best Friend
Those who know me best will tell you that I'm a little bit compulsive. I'm a human calendar. I'm a robot. They may be right: I'm a full-time MBA student, I have a few different jobs, and I even managed to get through 15 books in the first two months of this year (to be fair, some were audiobooks).
I get asked all the time how I manage to get so much done. And while I can't really teach anyone to feel stressed out by idly watching TV like I do (nor would I want to—it's a blessing and a curse), I can teach you about my #1 weapon when it comes to tackling schoolwork: an emergency fund of time.
Everyone knows that it's a good idea to have an emergency fund in the traditional sense—some money tucked away for a rainy day—because you just never know what's going to happen. You never know when you'll need to pay for something you didn't anticipate or budget for. If you don't have an emergency fund and something unexpected comes up, you'll either need to stress and scramble your way through it, or you'll come up short and not have enough resources.
How does one build an emergency fund of dollars? Well, you have to put in the work before the emergency happens. You have to tuck some of your money away for future use instead of spending it all as soon as you have it.
Although you may not think of it this way, the resource of time behaves in some very similar ways to money. You can build an emergency fund of time. Picture it: a last-minute quiz/homework assignment/meeting/etc. comes up, and instead of panicking or (*your GPA shudders in fear*) pulling an all-nighter, you have the time to spare! There's no emergency, there's no stress, and there's no lack of sleep. Sounds magical, right?
You can do it, and it only requires one week of sacrifice to get there (just like you might have one month of financial sacrifice to build a starter emergency fund of dollars). Here's how you become a robot like me:
Go through your syllabi and write every single assignment, task, and test in your planner. I also love Wunderlist a lot.
Figure out what's due this week and what's due next week.
Do it ALL OF THAT ^^ by Sunday night.
PSHHH yeah, I just heard you say. No, listen: if you can sacrifice one week of Netflix or whatever it is that you love to do in your downtime, you can get there. If you start at the very beginning of the semester, it's even easier, because the first week is often light (oh heyyyy syllabus week! PS...keep dreaming if you're in grad school).
Now here's the magical part: now that you're sitting at the beginning of an entire week with all of that week's homework done, you're not ready to relax quite yet. In the second week, do all of the work for the third week. Do it all by next Sunday night. All of it.
See what I'm doing? If you follow this system, you're always a week ahead. That way, if something comes up on Wednesday night, anything due Thursday is already done and you have plenty of time to deal with the unexpected task/meeting! It takes personal discipline, but so does anything else in life worth having: an emergency fund of dollars, a strong and healthy body, a college education....
Now, I know that sometimes it's not possible to do everything so far in advance. I also know that some classes don't give out the details of every assignment a week ahead of time. However, obstacles like that just make it all the more important that the rest of the week's work is done. If you know you'll have something due every Thursday but won't find out the details until Tuesday, block off some time in your calendar on Tuesday nights specifically for that task. (Try not to leave it until Wednesday!) I also find it useful to jot down notes while I plod through readings so that I can recall the material a week later.
So now you know. That's my secret. That's how I became a robot.
photo courtesy of picjumbo