Increasing Productivity During Seminary

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J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
Howdy folks,

For those of you who are either in seminary or have gone through the process (doesn't have to be seminary specifically to be helpful), take me through what your schedule looked like. What sort of things did you do to organize your semester both as a whole and daily? What courses did you prioritize and at which times? How did you balance family, devotions, church activities, and your course load?


I also realize the irony of taking the time to post on here when I have Bavinck's Prolegomena glaring at me. Not to mention Greek, Hebrew, a couple of papers...
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Rom seemed to be super organized and had a family to take care of while working full time.
 

smalltown_puritan

Puritan Board Freshman
How did you balance family, devotions, church activities, and your course load?
I found it better while in seminary to use the language of 'priorities' rather than 'balancing'. When I tried to 'balance' everything, typically everything inevitably suffered. When I viewed things in terms of 'priorities', I knew something was going to suffer, so it might as well be the right thing. For me, that meant seminary had to take the back seat to the family and the church because at the end of the day, faithfulness in those areas were required by God, and if I couldn't do those, I shouldn't be at seminary.

I had a professor who opened his course at the beginning of the semester by saying, 'Some of you are not going to get an A in this class because you were lazy and in sin. Some of you are going to get an A in this class because you neglected your family and are in sin. Don't sin.'
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
I found it better while in seminary to use the language of 'priorities' rather than 'balancing'. When I tried to 'balance' everything, typically everything inevitably suffered. When I viewed things in terms of 'priorities', I knew something was going to suffer, so it might as well be the right thing. For me, that meant seminary had to take the back seat to the family and the church because at the end of the day, faithfulness in those areas were required by God, and if I couldn't do those, I shouldn't be at seminary.

I had a professor who opened his course at the beginning of the semester by saying, 'Some of you are not going to get an A in this class because you were lazy and in sin. Some of you are going to get an A in this class because you neglected your family and are in sin. Don't sin.'
Well said. Thank you. I’ll think through what this looks like.
 

Peter Bell

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello from a fellow Seminarian!

I'm a 2nd year MDiv student, so hopefully I can give advice that's worked for me. My marriage comes first (though I'm not perfect at this!) so my wife and I scheduled our date nights and "time together" before the semester began. We rigidly stick to this. I have a work schedule that stays static, so those slots are blacked out after this. My church internship is almost exclusively preaching, so it's a little easier to filter preparation for this in during the week.

Next I have all assignments, reading, and paper writing portioned out through the semester, to assure that my marriage is given the priority it needs. What usually happens (as far as I can tell/see) is students assume they'll have time later, and push off writing or studying for later. I've tried to break this up evenly through the semester. So, I leave about 30 minutes to an hour per weekday for paper writing, 3-5 hours a day for reading, about 30 minutes to an hour a day for language study and translation work, and review my notes and study for exams in whatever time I have left.

This has worked really well for me. It seems like a lot, but it only comes up to 5 or so hours a day (some days closer to 7 or 8, but rarely), but allows me to continuously work on things due later in the semester to make sure I'm not cramming.

I start writing my papers halfway through the semester, make sure I have my research done, and write about a page or two a day, which is super manageable compared to writing the last week of the semester.

This was a definite muscle I had to build for seminary study, but does require you stay focused and "delete" any outside interruptions (social media, gaming, etc.). There are other things I do that I'm not building into to this, but this is the gist of it!
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hello from a fellow Seminarian!

I'm a 2nd year MDiv student, so hopefully I can give advice that's worked for me. My marriage comes first (though I'm not perfect at this!) so my wife and I scheduled our date nights and "time together" before the semester began. We rigidly stick to this. I have a work schedule that stays static, so those slots are blacked out after this. My church internship is almost exclusively preaching, so it's a little easier to filter preparation for this in during the week.

Next I have all assignments, reading, and paper writing portioned out through the semester, to assure that my marriage is given the priority it needs. What usually happens (as far as I can tell/see) is students assume they'll have time later, and push off writing or studying for later. I've tried to break this up evenly through the semester. So, I leave about 30 minutes to an hour per weekday for paper writing, 3-5 hours a day for reading, about 30 minutes to an hour a day for language study and translation work, and review my notes and study for exams in whatever time I have left.

This has worked really well for me. It seems like a lot, but it only comes up to 5 or so hours a day (some days closer to 7 or 8, but rarely), but allows me to continuously work on things due later in the semester to make sure I'm not cramming.

I start writing my papers halfway through the semester, make sure I have my research done, and write about a page or two a day, which is super manageable compared to writing the last week of the semester.

This was a definite muscle I had to build for seminary study, but does require you stay focused and "delete" any outside interruptions (social media, gaming, etc.). There are other things I do that I'm not building into to this, but this is the gist of it!
Thank you for the information! I absolutely agree that there are other priorities before studies. How do you divvy up your reading during those hours (divide total page count or chapters; follow a provided reading schedule)? How do you write out this schedule?

I've gotten other insight from upperclassmen, but I'm open to making a Frankenstein approach.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I appreciate this thread. Given recent trajectory I will possibly come under care myself.

@kodos had written in another thread a while back:

Post in thread 'Career - Where do I go?'
https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/career-where-do-i-go.101861/post-1239839

I am not certain I understand the 40 hour work week, personally. Perhaps a topic for another time. Six days shalt thou labor! It certainly makes Sabbaths sweeter and you maximize the Sabbath all the more. If being so busy doesn't drive you to pray MORE, then there's something terribly wrong. You will find yourself on your knees more and you will find the Lord blessing you in unexpected ways as obstacles and difficulties evaporate. It's a remarkable thing. The temptation is to go the other way, but don't. It will lead to your ruin.

Time management is something many are poor at. Not speaking of yourself, as I don't know you well enough! Just a general observation. I manage time for some of my clients and consult with them how to enhance their production efficiency.

Personally, I cut out most entertainments. I am also very shrewd with my time. For instance, I know it is virtually "heretical" (said with a grin) to use digital books instead of physical. But because of that, I can do my research: 1) faster due to searching / cross indexing and 2) I can do it anywhere, including on airplanes, on road-trips, doctor's offices, etc.

You also need to know how to study well (in terms of time management) and prepare for exams, etc. Spend time preparing and thinking how you will tackle a subject with time management in mind and you will find lots of time. Use a calendar to book every minute of your time while leaving some "padding". Redeem the time for the days are evil!
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Just to add a bit. With graduate studies, one of the hardest things is keeping up with the reading. It is often technically difficult as it is voluminous. Setting up and sticking to a schedule for reading is challenging. It is at times seemingly overwhelming to read, absorb and write about the material when you are under the gun and only have so much time to get it done. Up until now, you've no doubt interacted some with the material but are under no pressure. You can quit and pick it up in two weeks or two months. Not so otherwise though the temptation to procrastinate is ever present. It is easy to put off or think that you can multitask alongside some time in front of TV with your wife in the evening. That's not productive. You wont read or remember anything.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
For those of you who are either in seminary or have gone through the process (doesn't have to be seminary specifically to be helpful), take me through what your schedule looked like. What sort of things did you do to organize your semester both as a whole and daily? What courses did you prioritize and at which times? How did you balance family, devotions, church activities, and your course load?

Time spent getting organized is not wasted, unless you ignore your own organization. From the course schedule provided by the seminary I would eliminate everything not relevant to me so that I could see what my week looked like at a glance (taped to the fridge). Then I would make a list of all assignments (tests, papers, presentations, and so forth), and calculate the total amount of reading so as to be able to break it up in manageable proportions. I would have due dates on my google calendar with reminders. With regard to papers, I would make my own deadline and break things up so that I would work on one paper at a time. If three papers were due in April, one would be written in February, one in March, and one in April. That also means that paper topics start to get narrowed down the moment the terms of the assignment are made clear. If you can use one class to reinforce another, go for it: e.g., if you have a paper for Christology and a test about the Middle Ages, it's not hard to get those to overlap a bit so that preparation for one helps you with the other.

It's important to pay attention and prepare so that you are never surprised. It's also important to rest, clear your head, and not delude yourself with pipe dreams of maintaining an all-out pace for the whole time. And use your time. If you wake up early and can't go back to sleep, finish your bibliography and make your Inter-Library Loan requests. If you are waiting in line at a drive-through, listen to your Greek vocabulary. If you have 5 minutes before something happens, read two pages of a book. Using the odds and ends of time often means that you'll have less interrupted time for family or rest or whatever else later on. It's also important to manage your energy. It's better to take a 30-minute nap and return with renewed vigor than to drag your eyes over the same page 6 times. Expect stress, and look to the Lord for grace and strength to get you through it. If you know a book will be assigned reading next semester, read it over the summer or during the winter break.

I prioritized Hebrew, because I was less familiar with that than with other areas.
 

J.L. Allen

Puritan Board Sophomore
I appreciate this thread. Given recent trajectory I will possibly come under care myself.

@kodos had written in another thread a while back:

Post in thread 'Career - Where do I go?'
https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/career-where-do-i-go.101861/post-1239839
Thank you for sharing the thread. I'll give a look over after class today. And that's wonderful news about your career development!
Just to add a bit. With graduate studies, one of the hardest things is keeping up with the reading. It is often technically difficult as it is voluminous. Setting up and sticking to a schedule for reading is challenging. It is at times seemingly overwhelming to read, absorb and write about the material when you are under the gun and only have so much time to get it done. Up until now, you've no doubt interacted some with the material but are under no pressure. You can quit and pick it up in two weeks or two months. Not so otherwise though the temptation to procrastinate is ever present. It is easy to put off or think that you can multitask alongside some time in front of TV with your wife in the evening. That's not productive. You wont read or remember anything.
Procrastination is a big struggle for me. I'm painfully slow at reading, and struggle greatly with focusing.
Time spent getting organized is not wasted, unless you ignore your own organization. From the course schedule provided by the seminary I would eliminate everything not relevant to me so that I could see what my week looked like at a glance (taped to the fridge). Then I would make a list of all assignments (tests, papers, presentations, and so forth), and calculate the total amount of reading so as to be able to break it up in manageable proportions. I would have due dates on my google calendar with reminders. With regard to papers, I would make my own deadline and break things up so that I would work on one paper at a time. If three papers were due in April, one would be written in February, one in March, and one in April. That also means that paper topics start to get narrowed down the moment the terms of the assignment are made clear. If you can use one class to reinforce another, go for it: e.g., if you have a paper for Christology and a test about the Middle Ages, it's not hard to get those to overlap a bit so that preparation for one helps you with the other.

It's important to pay attention and prepare so that you are never surprised. It's also important to rest, clear your head, and not delude yourself with pipe dreams of maintaining an all-out pace for the whole time. And use your time. If you wake up early and can't go back to sleep, finish your bibliography and make your Inter-Library Loan requests. If you are waiting in line at a drive-through, listen to your Greek vocabulary. If you have 5 minutes before something happens, read two pages of a book. Using the odds and ends of time often means that you'll have less interrupted time for family or rest or whatever else later on. It's also important to manage your energy. It's better to take a 30-minute nap and return with renewed vigor than to drag your eyes over the same page 6 times. Expect stress, and look to the Lord for grace and strength to get you through it. If you know a book will be assigned reading next semester, read it over the summer or during the winter break.

I prioritized Hebrew, because I was less familiar with that than with other areas.
This is good stuff here. Thank you. I really appreciate the usage of even the smallest free moments. I need to put that into practice.
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
Thank you for sharing the thread. I'll give a look over after class today. And that's wonderful news about your career development!

Procrastination is a big struggle for me. I'm painfully slow at reading, and struggle greatly with focusing.

This is good stuff here. Thank you. I really appreciate the usage of even the smallest free moments. I need to put that into practice.
Thank you. Nothing set in stone, but Lord seems to be pulling this way. Time will tell.
 
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