Calendars Are My Friends, OR London, the Student, and Micro-scheduling

Living in London as a student requires a surprising amount of scheduling, as well as constant awareness of deadlines. I don’t mean essay deadlines or project deadlines, though of course those count as well. I’m referring to all the tiny little deadlines involving every area of daily life, plus stretches of time during which certain things are impossible or at least awfully difficult.

This is the way I typically block out a rough weekly schedule.

– – – – –

My schedule starts out with just one appointment, an essay conference.

Then I think of the major things I need to get done this week. I have a paper due on Wednesday at 5, but that’s when one of my classes ends. That means I’ll need to get it printed several hours before so I can leave room for lunch.

I also need to mail two postcards, but I’ve discovered that Royal Mail post offices are not open on Saturdays, unlike in the US. Which means I have a Friday deadline if I want to mail things before next week.

Furthermore, let’s say it’s Sunday. Most of the ready-to-eat places on the major street near my building close at 6 today, so I’ll have to keep that in mind when I want to grab dinner. That gets blocked into my schedule, too. So now it looks like this:

Then I add in my Monday through Thursday classes.

Let’s say a friend calls and wants to go shopping Friday night after I make my post office run. I have to make a note of when the stores close that day, because stores in major London shopping districts close early compared to stores in the US.

Now I need to worry about a book I checked out just before the weekend. UCL has a lot of books on 24-hour weekday or single-weekend loan. I have a book out on a single-weekend loan, which means I need to return it at 10 am on Monday. That gets blocked in, too.

BUT I need this book for class on Tuesday from 2 to 4 pm. To make the 24-weekday loan work for me, I need to re-check out that same book at such a time that I’ll still be able to return it after class without it being overdue. I pick 5 pm on Monday. So I’ll need to come back Tuesday right after class to return it. Now my schedule looks like this:

I decide to combine a bank run and a grocery run in the same evening because there’s a Barclays and a Sainsbury’s near each other a few minutes away. I have a bank run deadline because the ATM is inside the bank, not outside. I need to get there before it closes.

Now let’s say a friend wants to meet up on Saturday at 3 to go to a museum, which closes at 5. But the Tube closes certain lines on the weekend, forcing me to take a longer, alternative route. This means I have to leave my building earlier than expected.

Then I need to make sure I get back on the Tube before 10 — before it gets too late to be out by myself. The schedule now looks like this:

The dining hall in my building serves dinner from 5 to 7, so I have to be mindful of that time window, too. I can’t schedule things that overlap with those times entirely, or I’ll have to spend extra money on dinner elsewhere.

On Thursday, I have to remember to go to dinner early so I can make my bank/grocery run on time. The schedule now:

Oh, and laundry. I set my laundry time for a 1.5 hour block on Thursday night because that’s when the other residents of my building go partying and are least likely to also be doing laundry.

I do this every week. I think about store closings, Tube closings, walking distances, book return times, library opening times, leaving enough time to print things, meal times, pharmacy times, office closings, etc. And I’m constantly looking things up: which Tube lines will be closing, when restaurants open/close, where ATMs are outdoors and not locked inside the bank after hours. On top of this, I need to minimize my time spent walking outside past 10 or so at night. And there’s homework, too…all the reading and writing I’m doing in addition to the things blocked in on my schedule.

It’s weirdly exhausting.

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