I'm afraid that if we publicize ourselves as seeking to select the "best" students for admission, we will get... more box-tickers. Fewer lifelong learners. More obedient queuers. Fewer spontaneous beekeepers. More people aiming to graduate and be named "exceptional" for doing so. Fewer people aiming to shape the school that will (sometimes just barely) graduate them, and who actually do all the revolutionary rule-breaking that "exceptional" implies. (emphasis mine)
To this I say amen.
This weekend will be devoted to getting my life in order for the storm of travel that is to come between next week and the beginning of April. Once I get on my first plane, I believe there will be a grand total of 5 days where I'm not traveling. Amazingly enough, I managed to arrange my schedule so I'll miss a grand total of one class - which is having an exam that day that I'll simply take early.
Time management for this semester has not been perfect (it never will be), but it's been amazingly good. The secret? Waking up early. Very, very, very early. And sleeping early - and adequately - and eating well, which sometimes for me means not guilting out over spending $3.50 on a large soup for lunch when I forget to pack the homemade meal I made the night before. Doing work at the office and being focused about it, and trying not to bring work home.
And that is how I juggle 4 graduate classes plus an independent study plus research on three days a week - I do that Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, and freelance and do my own reading (and some of my own research) Thursday-Friday. I have breaks, I take walks, I hang out with classmates, I spend entire days doing things other than work; I sleep, I eat, I go to random movie showings and talks and other campus events, I audit German 201 when I can and work my way through my grammar book when I can't, and I spend time doing things like "let's explore the hearing thing!" (read: go see audiologist, drive back and forth across town figuring out how Vocational Rehabilitation state services work, etc.)
It helps a lot that grad school classes for me have been heavily reading-based so far, and I'm a fast reader; one professor dumps about 300 pages of dense developmental psychology on us every week, and I usually read it after dinner on the evening it's assigned. In fact, I try to do all my work for a class on the day of that class - a week before it's due, that is, not the morning-of. And I do all of my meeting/workgroup followup immediately after the meeting (if I can) or that same day (if I can't). This means I have some very, very long Mondays - 3 of my 4 classes meet on Mondays - but I know that when I'm done, I'm really done. It's amazing how wonderful it feels to know it's not possible for you to be forgetting something.
Again, it's not perfect. I slip. I slip a lot. But it feels like I'm using my time more effectively this semester than I have in... any other semester I have ever been at school, so something's working. And I'm letting myself do that - I'm trying hard things, it's ok if I fail, I recalibrate and get back on track and readjust the track instead of beating myself up... which takes a lot of willpower, because it's the intellectual-rational part of my brain that needs to keep on shouting "IT'S OKAY DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP" when I... beat myself up. (Instinct! It's hard to fight that habit!) But progress is being made!
It helps to have something you really want to do. And it helps to make yourself focus on several things you want to do, and to turn down stuff, or keep extra stuff optional, so you don't end up with towering piles of obligation. I suppose I would summarize my strategy this term as "when you take on an obligation, do it immediately, thus acquiring no obligation backlog whatsoever."
I'd like to get better at regular exercise, which is something I'm still experimenting with - none of my lifehack attempts so far have gotten me to exercise regularly this semester, so I've decided that I'll take advantage of Purdue's cheap ($45 for the semester!) group fitness classes. Sure, maybe I should be able to do pushups on the floor of my own apartment. But I'm still new enough to the whole "fitness" thing that having structure, company, and people to nag me about my form is not a bad idea - and then maybe I'll do pushups at home to practice outside of class. Who knows?