Time management is always something I have struggled with personally. I’ve occasionally found it difficult to be proactive with important tasks, to avoid allocating too much time to unimportant tasks, and generally to balance my efforts in a way that minimizes stress and maximizes productivity. Going into this trip to Madrid, I knew that time management would be an even more difficult task while abroad. With the constant appeal of unfamiliar things to distract me and the new challenges presented by life and work in a different country, it’s easy to see how careful planning and budgeting of time could give way to spontaneous exploration and thoughtless use of valuable free time. However, as the first week of my internship went on I definitely developed some ways to improve the overall balance between enjoying myself in a foreign country and accomplishing the tasks laid out in front of me.
The biggest thing I learned through my first week working at Pulsar Technologies in Madrid was the immense flexibility of my job description. I went into the program expecting a clearly defined role with lots of specifics. However, from the day of my interview (when the majority of my fellow employees didn’t even know I was imminently beginning to work alongside them) and every day since I have realized that the exact tasks given to me are much less set in stone than I initially thought. While in many ways this is a good thing, as I have the ability to contribute to a lot of projects, ask about things I’m interested in and constantly adjust the type of work I’m doing, it can also be a bad thing as it makes it much more difficult to anticipate what I’ll be doing on a daily basis and plan accordingly. As I progress through the internship, I’m certain that the tasks and responsibilities assigned to me will become more clearly defined. However, in the meantime I have learned that my time is best managed by constantly asking what I can be doing, what projects are on the horizon and what my role in the company is going to be. This persistent communication has made it much easier to prioritize tasks and manage my time.
I have also been able to better manage my time during the internship through productive use of the many small chunks of time available to me throughout the work day. Due to transit to and from work, the Spanish meal schedule (~5 times a day) and other factors, I have begun to realize that my time at work is much more broken up than I am used to. As opposed to longer designated periods of recreation and work, in Madrid I have been presented with alternating periods of socialization and productivity which are greater in frequency and shorter in duration than what I am used to. Therefore, something crucial to my time management on the job has been the ability to frequently and swiftly shift gears between socializing with my coworkers and getting work done. While initially this proved difficult, I think it will soon become second nature and the social breaks at work will provide welcome stress relief as opposed to a potent distraction.
A final factor that has helped me manage time at my internship is adjusting to Madrid’s social schedule and becoming more regimented in my weekly routine. Late dinners and even later nightlife and family activity initially made it difficult to wake up at 7:00 and feel prepared for the workday, especially when colleagues and friends I’ve managed to make are constantly and kindly pushing socialization. Fortunately, after a week in Madrid, I have now figured out how to make this generally-later Madrid routine work with my own personal routine. For instance, I now know what things I have to prepare before dinner, what I’ll have time to do afterwards, what time I need to go to bed to remain productive in the morning and what sort of things I’ll have the motivation and time to do before the long transit to work. Adjusting to the local schedule has been a challenging process that doubtless will continue over the course of the trip.
In conclusion, to prioritize my tasks and manage my time at work I have been learning to embrace the flexible nature of my internship, make use of small chunks of free time and adjust my own personal schedule to comply with local customs. As I continue with my internship, managing my time at work will certainly provide a persistent challenge. But it’s a challenge that I now feel increasingly prepared to meet.