Some Suggestions On How To Keep Your Head Above Water…

I am constantly in awe of the commitment of graduate students. Many of my colleagues have families, juggle multiple jobs, and I even learned last week that one of my students travels down to Chicago from Milwaukee multiple times a week to get to class!

As numerous studies seem to show, we Americans are busier than ever! Even though now is the time when finals are being turned in and the semester is winding down, I thought I might give some tips on how my friends and I keep our heads above water during our chaotic graduate semesters.

1. Get A Day Planner

I use a very small, paper planner that fits in my briefcase. I know that seems archaic (an e-planner probably works just as well), but I like being able to see the month (and future months) all at once.

At the beginning of the semester, go into your planner and write in the due dates for all papers and projects from your syllabi…then highlight them in bold colors so you are aware when due dates are approaching.

2. Plan Ahead

I used to tell myself and everyone around me that, “I work best under pressure.” That seems to be the universal procrastinator’s motto and, if you are anything like me, it’s probably causing you unnecessary stress and grief. Once you get into graduate school, you can’t get away with winging papers and projects any more. By this time, your professors are going to be asking for sound research…which takes more than a weekend. My trick is starting every paper or project about two to three weeks ahead of the due date. When I see that highlighted project looming (see above), that is my cue to go to the library for books or start looking at internet databases.

3. Take Your Time Writing

I have a co-worker that claims that she can write a 20-page paper in 4 hours (not the research, just the writing). Just so you know, that’s SUPER abnormal. You know how long it takes me (and a lot of other doctoral students)? About a week. Writing a coherent, well-researched 20-page paper takes a long time. If you throw into the mix the reality of having a family, or 2 jobs on the side, or the fact that life is constantly throwing curveballs, why would you gamble your mental health, sleep, relationships, and sanity?

Start about a week ahead of time.


Do a little work every day.



Of course everyone is different and you may have some amazing tips yourself to share. Nevertheless, for me and a few of my friends, these things have made school so much more manageable.

Hope this was helpful as you begin thinking about the next semester!