Managing Expectations for Productivity During the Term

Most grad students tend to plan well, and also execute their goals in a timely fashion. Every now and then, there is a struggle that we might face in managing our own expectations and productivity. Yes, there are 24 hours in each day, and one can find plenty of things to do if one is willing to commit to them. Nonetheless, I’d like to propose that new and advanced graduate students embark on the introspective journey of managing their own productivity expectations.

One sure way to manage expectations for productivity is to maintain a digital or physical planner to keep track of important meetings and writing/research deadlines. I’ve found that keeping both a digital and physical planner helps me to prioritize interpersonal and writing/research work. Sometimes our calendars and planners can get so full as graduate students that we develop anxieties about just being able to check items off of them. Personal accountability is important. I do not recommend jotting everything done that needs to get done, because then you’ll have a laundry list of things to do that just seem unending. Instead, write down the necessary to-do’s per day or week, and that will make the load feel just a little bit lighter.

Another way to manage expectations for productivity is to talk to post-graduate and advanced graduate students. These students will tell you the absolute truth about being overly ambitious or short-sighted when it comes to conducting research and writing while managing or finishing coursework. Most graduate students believe in their abilities to turn out important writing projects quickly, but also come to realize that the editing process can take much more time than they may have anticipated. Remaining flexible is crucial to managing expectations for productivity. Flexibility helps us to not beat ourselves up when we don’t meet our overachieving goals on a specific day, or ahead of schedule.

Essentially, each term will bring its own workload and adversity. What’s important is that graduate students remain flexible and kind to themselves as they are navigating the productivity cycle. My advice is to do something small towards a big goal everyday, even if its outlining or reading for a writing/research project. Every step that you take during the term counts when you are trying to meet personal and academic goals. Lastly, if your productivity does not make amends for self-care, I would reevaluate it. Everyone needs a break, regardless of their university status or affiliation. Manage and thrive as a graduate student, don’t just survive.