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.

Make Time for Good Habits

Even though this is my 4th year in a doctoral program, I was recently reminded of the importance of self-care. Over the summer, I found myself staying faithful to a good exercise routine and participating in the free cycling course at the SRSC. Once summer came to its inevitable end, my workouts stopped. They did not slow down or gradually decrease, I mean they completely stopped. This was partially due to my schedule and also not wanting to make trips to campus on days that I did not have to be there. However, my main reason for not working out was that I wanted to relax during the little free time I had instead during the first month of the semester. While I possibly saved myself some aches and pains in the moment, I lost all of the benefits that come along with working out regularly. After taking over a month off from the gym, I recently returned and am trying to get into a new rhythm for this semester. Due to scheduling conflicts, I will not be able to have one workout partner this semester, but it looks like I will be able to piece together some sort of routine where I can lift with friends. This extra accountability will hopefully be enough to keep me in the gym now that the semester has settled down. Moral of the story: make time for the gym! Author Michael Altshuler states that, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.”

Photo by Garrett Carter

End of the Semester Reflections

Do you ever take the time to pause from all of the “hustle and bustle” of graduate school to reflect on how far you’ve come? Reflecting can seem like a daunting task for some, because there are checklists that we can carry around in our heads regarding where we should be in terms of meeting our personal goals and aspirations. Nonetheless, reflecting can be used as a decompressing exercise that results in gratitude, if we choose to practice it regularly. When we are able to see how far we’ve come, we’re often grateful for where we’ve arrived to in the present.

I encourage graduate students and others in general to reflect often. Think about the conversations that you are having with people on a regular basis. What kinds of words and comments are you internalizing? Also, what kind of words and energy are your projecting onto other colleagues regarding your own self-concept and research? Words and thoughts are powerful. Grad students should develop the habit of reflecting in order to detox some of the self-doubt and external critiques of their work that come with being a professional student. Practicing reflection looks different for everyone. Some might like to journal their thoughts. Some might want to talk it out with a close friend or mentor. Some might reflect through creative expression and physical activity.

The point is, by the end of a 16 week semester, everyone needs to take a moment to reflect. Do it your own way, as it long as you prioritize it, and look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Following your Heart (and gut)

Graduate school is an opportunity to learn more about the things you are interested in. What people don’t always tell you, is that it can make you rethink your choices and/or reveal new passions. I used to be an over-planner. Every step I took was carefully laid out. In graduate school I have been exposed to different concepts, cultures and opportunities. We can’t plan everything. I’ve had to fight myself to go off of the path I laid out for myself to achieve something greater. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith and trust yourself, your heart or your gut. 🙂

How To Communicate in Grad School?

How to Communicate in Grad School?

            “Do you understand the words, that are coming out of my mouth?” is quote by Chris Tuckers’ character from the classic buddy cop movie “Rush Hour.” One of the obstacles that Tucker and his co-star, Jackie Chan, had to overcome was being able to communicate with one another. Communication is a very important factor in graduate school, as you have to be able to articulate to other people how you are doing on your academic journey or what you need. This comes down to be able to communicate with professors, classmates and your friends with how you’re feeling in your academic career.

Now that you are in graduate schools it’s important to let your advisors or professors know if ever feel you’re struggling in courses sooner rather than later. You don’t want to wait till after midterms to tell the professor that you’ve been struggling with the material, as had you said something sooner may have affected the difference between passing and failing your exam. Communicating with your professors begins in the classmate. A common practice for students is when it comes to note taking is to pretend you understand what was written on the board, when in reality you don’t. In moments like that it’s important to be honest and let them know if there is any part of the material you don’t understand. If the confusion about the material continues, that’s when it is important to see the professor during office hours. Speaking from experience, I’m currently taking intro to statistics, and I usually see the professor in that course at least once a week in order to gain a better understanding of the course material. So it’s important to communicate with your professors on how you’re doing in your graduate level courses. But the other part of communicate is that with your classmates (colleagues).

Properly communicating with your colleagues, be they in your cohort or organization, is another important of grad school life. This can be applied to not only how to study for classes in your department, but also to be able to coordinate meetings or activities. One way this applies is if you’re apart of a student organization and get emails about coordinating a meeting with other members and need to respond on the location and time. The worst kind of response is no response as that can make it harder to plan a meeting if only a few people respond to the email. So even if the response is not immediate, it’s still better to respond sooner rather than later. This can be applied to studying with a group of your classmates as to not only where to study, but also what to study in terms of course material. Being able to communicate properly with your colleagues helps show your reliability in planning events or meetings, but also shows your understanding the responsibility that comes with it.

Overall knowing how to communicate to other people in graduate school is something you learn over time. There will be times that they’ll come to you, but it’s important to know when to be direct and go to them when you have concerns or planning something. Understanding this will help make your academic career all the more successful.

Springing into Action for the Summer

After Spring break, most students regardless of classification are looking to prepare themselves to end the semester strong. The important thing to consider after spring break in particular, however, is how you will continue your matriculation progress through the summer. While most students may choose to focus on day of, or week of assignments, graduate students should be planning ahead with research and writing plans during and post-semester. I’ve come to realize that pacing yourself as a graduate student with rotating weekly obligations is a near superpower, once you get the hang of it.

Research and writing planning during the late spring can certainly provide a boost for graduate students to apply for grants, conferences, and other fellowship opportunities in the future. As you consider what “springing into action” means for you specifically, I would propose the following questions to determine which action should be taken to ensure optimal success for you as a prospective or current graduate student:

  • What stage are you in currently in pursuit of your graduate degree? (classification, program requirements, research interests)
  • Where are your research archives? (databases, libraries, locations outside of the university)
  • Is there a conference, fellowship, grant, that you need to write for? (deadlines, recommendations, format)
  • How can you get ahead with writing for the next term over the summer? (May/June/July)


Finding Inspiration

While we all come to graduate school “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed”,it can be easy to get overwhelmed. We get caught up in our work and may even lose sight of the the reason we decided to pursue a graduate degree. It is very important to find ways to feed your passion outside of school. For me, this includes volunteering and creative writing. While neither of these are directly related to my coursework, they feed my passions and bring me back to reality. Other grounding activities i’ve indulged in include include recording gratitude and making what I call “passion goals”. Some of my passion goals are to read 4 books this year (not for class) and to do at least one craft every month. There are plenty of self-care activities out there that can support your passions (or even help you discover more!) 


Stay Positive!


5 Ways to enjoy the (campus) Staycation


Who isn’t excited to have a little time off? But often as graduate students we don’t have the option to bail on teaching and graduate responsibilities during breaks. Whether it’s because traveling is too expensive or have an approaching deadline for a project you will, on occasion, find yourself in town during a school break. Staying in town when the majority of the student body vacates can seem disheartening, but have no fear, here are five hidden ways to enjoy your campus staycation.

1) First, appreciate the silence. Ok maybe not complete silence, but the bustle of cars, buses and people everywhere tends to settle down during long breaks.

2) Remember that you’ll have a more flexible schedule. The demands of seminars, attending meetings and/or teaching courses are reduced (if not eliminated) thus allowing you to be more flexible with your days. Perhaps you can take the opportunity to sleep in or leave campus early.

3) Get out and explore the town! Our schedules are always jam packed, so we rarely have free time to explore. Go ahead and try a new restaurant. The wait times are usually non-existent during long breaks, so treat yourself to that new place you’ve been wanting to try. This is also a great time to catch a movie, go to the gym, library or other campus hotspots that can feel overpopulated during regular semester hours can be easier to manage during the breaks.

*FYI* Check operating hours as businesses may adjust times or close for repairs due to fewer patrons.

4) Resources are abundant, whether trying to use the campus printing, valuable office space, or the machines that always seem to be taken. It is highly unlikely you are the only one around, but there are far fewer people everywhere making it easier to access shared equipment.

5) Lastly, you are not alone. There are tons of other grad students in the same boat. Plan to meet up with people you don’t get to see regularly because of your busy schedules. So use the time to reconnect with old buddies or if you’re new to campus, use it as an opportunity to make new friends.

Black Panther: A Source of Joy and Resilience


Image result for black panther gif

Black Panther is a must see, but I’m sure you’ve heard this already from various media platforms. Black Panther is a source of inspiration and motivation to students and staff in the academy. It is an affirmation to so many Black communities within the diaspora that you are enough. Sometimes the academy can lead us to believe that there one way to discuss Black life. Black Panther has showed us the critical and necessary conversations we can have regarding the Black community through art, specifically film. The actors and screenwriters of Black Panther are creative scholars and you too can use creativity to build a bridge between theory and practice. Lastly allow Black Panther to serve as a source of joy for you to continue to push through. This film will go down in history and should serve as an honorable moment as a member of the African diaspora.