There will always be work.
Over the past two years as a grad student, I’ve learned that I’ll often have 25 hours of work a day. Between the readings, the conceptual frameworks, the classwork, and the teaching, it’s a wonder that my mind doesn’t explode. At some point, I have to stop and accept the fact that there will always be something left undone. There will always be work left to do.
The world will not end when I don’t finish everything on time.
Even though it’s flattering to believe that the entire world depends on my work, most people function perfectly fine without it. Obviously there are times when others depend on me, but for the most part everyone else is too caught up in their own work to notice mine. This is a merciful reality.
Productivity = working hard and stopping
Keeping sane in this world requires that I focus on the most important tasks as hard as I can for as long as I can with absolutely no distractions and then stop and do something fun. Scheduling fixed periods of work and play is critical for both getting things done and getting much needed play and rest.
Sometimes creating a balanced life means adding something you love.
Most of the time when I hear people talking about living a balanced life, they talk about taking things away. During my first weeks of grad school, I felt completely overwhelmed by work. I had taken away everything else. Since work was my entire life, when it wasn’t going well I felt like my life was a mess. Then I added ballroom dance. Immediately the quality of my life (and work) improved.
It is possible to be an effective grad student and have an outside life.
I have other goals in my life besides getting a PhD, and I refuse to put my life on hold. I want to travel, to dance, to play the ukulele, to learn languages, to take care of my body, to meet interesting people, and to enjoy life. I also want to make an impact in my chosen field by producing meaningful work. I believe I can do this by focusing my effort on the most meaningful tasks and by eliminating distractions.
Follow along as I share my experiences and experimentations in pursuit of a balanced yet effective graduate career.