Grad School – The Great Balancing Act

I hope you’ll all excuse a little silly home photography. I thought it would illustrate a point I have to make.

If there’s one thing I wish I understood better when I was starting grad school, it’s that grad school is a great balancing act. Of course everyone knows that it’s tough to divide their time between family, friends, careers, education, hobbies, relaxation and all other kinds of pursuits. Graduate school has definitely solidified this lesson for me. But more specifically (and here’s that insider tip for soon-to-be-grad-students) I’ve learned that balancing long-term goals with short term goals is one of the most important – and difficult! – parts of grad school. As a graduate student, it’s really easy to stay focused on the day-to-day and week-to-week goals, like getting your lesson plans together for that class you teach or finishing your class readings on time. The immediacy of those goals makes them loom huge in front of you. Meanwhile long term goals, like submitting an article for publication or putting together a panel for a conference, tend to fade into the background.

So what to do? If I could go back, I would set myself one or two long term goals each semester. Then, instead of letting them occupy one lonely space at the back of my calendar/planner, I would dedicate one weekend each month to putting in some quality time on those goals. My husband has a new motto: “Well begun is half done.” Even dedicating a little time to those goals can make a big difference down the line and prevent you from having to play catch up. In the end, a good balancing act might mean you’re more competitive for a job or that you aren’t on a frantic search for funding – and in considering that, it might not be so bad if your desk stays a little messy or that knitting project takes a little longer.

And now the gag reel…

Happy juggling!