Being happy and productive in graduate school

Sincere thanks to Dr. Leah Knight, Graduate Program Director, English Language and Literature, at Brock University, for suggesting that grad launch share words of advice from a graduate student about keeping “focused, motivated, and, for the most part, happy.”

She sent along a link to the post, “10 Ways to Foster Happiness and Productivity in Graduate School,” written by Serina Patterson, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, that features “10 actionable tips” to other graduate students.

Productivity tipsLeah recommends this piece from November 18, 2013, for the way it encourages students to maintain strength and energy – and, yes, even joy – as they juggle the myriad duties attached to completing a graduate program.

I’ll list Serina’s suggestions here, but this is definitely one case where reading the original is much more interesting and much more fun than my quick summary can possibly be. The pictures and illustrations alone are well worth following the link!

Serina’s tips include the following:

  1. Exercise — to reduce stress, combat anxiety, and help recharge mental faculties.
  2. Go for long walks outside — to relax, reflect and soak up the inspiration that strikes when we are in natural surroundings.
  3. Write (almost every day) – writing is rhythmical; you need to keep up by keeping it up.
  4. Keep a journal — a way of checking in with yourself and playing with ideas without risk of failure or humiliation. You never know what you will find when you come back to it.
  5. Keep a log and track your time — measuring your progress towards your goals. You can start small and work up; and when you meet your daily goals you can legitimately turn to other fun and restorative things to do.
  6. Get enough sleep – this can’t be overemphasized. Good sleep routines stave off all sorts of health problems.
  7. Stay curious — school work is one thing, but the world is full of marvels and different things to do. Learning new things, even small things, is sustaining – and enjoyable.
  8. Be social — “isolation can easily spiral into depression.” Enough said.
  9. Work on strategies that increase efficiency — lots of things can take longer than they should, when you are a grad student. Serina’s article outlines many strategies for tackling the many kinds of work that graduate students need to undertake.
  10. Know that you are already successful – and reinforce the truth of this to yourself constantly. You didn’t get to this point by being incompetent. In Serina’s words, you need to “stand by your accomplishments and let them propel you forward.” Uncertainty is always with us, but none of them affect who you are and all that you have to offer.

Check out the piece for yourself. It is indeed spritely and innovative.

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