Balancing Work and Life in Graduate School

Balancing Work and Life in Graduate School

October 18, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


[music throughout] “Challenges of Maintaining a Work/life Balance” KYLA: I think it’s challenging to have a work/life
balance sometimes because everything is new to you, you think that you want to give the
best impression, you want to be on top of everything. If an assignment requires 4 hours,
you want to put in 6, just because you want to be the best. A lot of us are here because
we’re high achievers and you want to just go above and beyond sometimes. KAITLIN: You’re doing things that you’re incredibly
passionate about and that you really love so there’s a tendency to want to just keep
working on your project, no matter what. Coupled with stress and just pressure from your peers,
if you feel that you want to compete with your peers or you want to be just as successful,
as well as your advisor can provide another layer of stress. PHIL: The stressors kind of creep up on you.
In your first couple years, you’re so immersed in taking your classes and advancing to candidacy,
if you’re not paying attention to your research or advancing your own research, the dissertation
process can be a bit more difficult. Or other people are more focused on their research
and spending too much time in the lab and they’re sacrificing their performance in classes.
I definitely think that stressors, or certain stressors, can creep up on you. DASHINI: There is this misperception that
in order to be a successful graduate student, your whole identity needs to be the graduate
student who is in the lab all the time or in the library all the time. I think that
misperception can make people feel a little bad if they want to take time out for themselves.
They feel guilty if they decide to take a vacation over the summer or to take a break
at some point during the semester. I think that’s a kind of a dangerous attitude to have
because you will burn out if you keep going at a breakneck pace without giving yourself
a break. “Advice and Tips” ASHLEY: The secret is, no one is doing everything
all at the same time. Even the people who pretend they are and you think have everything
together and everything tied in a little bow, no, they’re stressed and they’re tired, too.
One thing that really helps me balance life and balance work is that I write goals for
myself. I write goals for the week and then I break those goals down by day and when I
hit that goal for the day, then I stop. KERRI: I run first thing in the morning, so
that I know I fit it in and then if I have to work the rest of the day, that’s okay.
It’s just about setting a schedule for yourself and realizing that you can’t do everything,
so you make priorities and you do the best that you can do and make some time for yourself
because it’s important and it will help you be a better student. DEVAN: Make sure that you delegate time to
do research, delegate time to exercise, and delegate time to engage in social activities
with your friends and don’t let anything compromise those times because all three of those things
are very important in your journey as a graduate student. ELAN: One of my biggest helps during graduate
school has been my roommate. When I moved to Ann Arbor, I sublet an apartment for the
summer so that I could find a place to stay and potentially find a roommate. When we found
each other, she was in Political Science and I’m in Education and Psychology. We had different
enough worlds but a similar experience so when I was stressed out and working on papers
or when she was worried about a class, then we could talk to each other and understand,
but still have our own separate lives that revolved in different spaces. DASHINI: Remember that before you became a
graduate student, you were a lot of other things as well. You were someone’s best friend,
you were someone’s partner, you were someone’s child, you were someone’s gym buddy, you were
someone’s coach. So it’s important to remember that in graduate school, you don’t drop all
of those other identities, they’re still in play. So I constantly remind myself of that
whenever I think, oh, I don’t have time to grab a coffee with a really good friend of
mine because I have to do work. I remind myself that I’m not just a graduate student, I need
to have time to reconnect with my friends, with my family. SARANG: In my second year here, I started
a project called MindSET with the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. It’s basically
a K-12 mathematics education project. This was such a rewarding experience to me, that
in fact it increased my productivity in my research life and in my day to day life, it
just made me happier. That’s just regarding my personal experience. It would be an example
of how getting involved with an organization that does something that’s really close to
your heart, and for me, it was education, can really change your outlook to what’s your
research and your graduate education. “University Resources” TAEYJUANA: There are many programs here on
campus that will help you de-stress and refocus yourself. There’s the Counseling and Psychological
Services, that is free for all students, where you can go and talk to someone. They have
a room that has yoga and games and massage chairs and you can just go in and give yourself
a 30 minute stress-free break. PHILIP: One of the things they do that could
be helpful is workshops that help people try and time manage or try and manage stress better.
If you’re feeling that these workshops, or if you need more than just a workshop, they
also have short-term counseling with therapists and counselors, where you can meet with them
a few times to try and talk about the kinds of stress you’re going through and different
strategies to try and manage the things that are on your plate. You can definitely make
an appointment at the Psychological Clinic at the University of Michigan. This is the
clinic that’s associated with the Department of Psychology and you can meet with therapists
a little more long-term to try and establish how to maintain your long-term goals, also
how to get to your short-term goals in order to get to your long-term goals, and also how
to use different strategies to maintain your mental health.