Monthly Archives: February 2018

Tips for the Working Graduate Student

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Tips for the working graduate student (a.k.a. things-I-never-do-consistently-but-probably-maybe-should)

I worked full-time while completing my Master’s program. I am working full-time while completing my doctoral degree. Sometimes I regret this, but not enough to quit. Below are the tips I’ve gathered to survive the next week, month, and semester.

*returns to repeat-playing Pray for Me by Kendrick Lamar and The Weekend*

  • Know your needs
    • Do you need people occasionally?
      • Set aside one day (or evening…or hour) a week where you get to talk to people (or a person). Treat yourself.
    • Do you need to be by yourself a lot?
      • Set aside one day (or evening…or hour) a month where you talk to people (or one person). You can make excuses other days. Or text them. Or ghost everyone and never talk to people again. It’s your choice.
    • Do you need white space on paper when you’re writing a 25 page paper?
      • Write in sections and then combine later.
  • Take time for yourself (be it 5min, 30min, an hour)
    • When you’re working, especially in full-time or service heavy jobs, and going to school, there’s a lot of demand on your time. If you are partnered or parenting, the demands for your time may be even more challenging (or different).
    • Someone is always wanting something from you. Make sure to replenish yourself. This might look like sitting quietly, listening to music, journaling, going for a jog, or going for a walk with a friend. Whatever you do to wind down. Prioritize your own need for yourself.
  • Schedule stuff
    • If you’re like me, you forget things that aren’t written down or scheduled. Your calendar, check lists, or project management apps are your friends (#Trello4life…unless something better comes along).
  • Invest in therapy
    • Family, friends, or partners aren’t always available to listen to your frustrations (nor should they be). Sometimes you need an objective body to listen and offer judgement free advice.
    • If you’re attending classes on campus, your university likely has a counseling center that provides services for free.
    • Some health insurance plans include some coverage for mental health, which makes it wayy more affordable.
    • You job may provide access to therapy support through EAP
  • Take care of all dimensions of your well-being. One way to prioritize this is to choose one and do something to benefit that dimension in a given week or month.
    • Emotional
    • Physical
    • Spiritual
    • Social
    • Environmental
    • Occupational
  • Channel energy in constructive ways
    • Eating your feelings isn’t great. But if you must, choose something with low-damage impact (I know I’m weird, but I’m a fan of salad, fruit, and veggies. Blame it on my dad.)
    • Reward yourself with focusing on a dimension of well-being upon completing a goal. For example, maybe you treat yourself with a hike, if you’re into hiking.  Or plan a mini vacation for getting through a rough semester.
  • Set mini milestones
    • Instead of “I just need to get to the end of the semester,” try “I just need to finish this slide” or “I just have to write these three sentences.”
    • Chances are, if you give a grad student a mini milestone, they’ll get distracted and do more than the milestone. 🙂
  • You will never be perfect, don’t idealize perfection
    • Good enough is good enough, sometimes.
  • Set realistic goals
    • As my therapist friend tells me: SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
  • Prioritize deadlines
    • Write down everything you need to accomplish within a week. List them according to priority and attend to the most urgent issues first.
  • It’s okay to hide occasionally
    • This is one I struggle with: when to say “no.” Especially if the individuals asking are people you care about. (Note: I’m not talking about life or death crisis situations.)
    • Set boundaries or refer to other resources as necessary.
    • You cannot be everything to everybody. Sometimes you might have to say, “Can I get back to you on this?”
  • Be kind to yourself
    • Life still happens. Sometimes it’s hard to be engaged with studies when you’re facing challenging life events.
    • Again, sometimes good enough is good enough.
  • Establish networks of support
    • Find a person or two or three who understands. We all need cheerleaders.
    • Establish a “No Committee” at work or among friends. These are 2-3 people who help you make decisions about taking on new projects.
  • Celebrate the wins
    • Acknowledge your successes, large and small.
  • Get sleep
    • A 15 minute nap after work is better than nothing, if you know you’ll be up late writing.
  • Never do this again. Seriously, though. This is my last degree. Probably.

What would you add?

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