One key to being successful in graduate school is to be productive. However, for many this is easier said than done, so a few suggestions are in order. We’ve gleaned tips from GradHacker, a blog dedicated to graduate students hosted on Inside Higher Education.
Make a Game of It
GradHacker recommends treating graduate school like a game. Author Katy Meyers suggests setting up goals and challenges to make grad school easier and a little more fun. The “gamer” in all of us can appreciate setting long and short-term goals, developing a rewards system, mapping out levels (and celebrating their completion), and creating mini-challenges or side projects that develop new skills. The rewards and feeling of achievement when you complete a level or challenge can make for excellent motivation.
Taking initiative also leads to a productive graduate education. This is particularly important for those working with a dissertation or thesis committee. In this instance, GradHacker author Terry Brock says you should not wait for your advisor or other committee members to contact you; reach out to them using Doodle or another online service to schedule a meeting. Taking initiative demonstrates that you are dedicated to making progress and finishing; plus you’ll have one less thing to worry about. When setting up the meeting, include the details you want to discuss and attach any items you would like reviewed. It’s helpful to provide your committee with a timeline and adequate time for review. Before the meeting, prepare an agenda and email it to your committee. Following an agenda will keep the meeting on track, and your message will serve as a reminder to your committee to read your work beforehand. During the meeting, stick to your agenda and take good notes. Thank your committee for their time in an email afterwards and include the major points that were covered. These notes will help your committee keep a record of your discussions and outline what they can expect from you over the next few weeks. This follow-up email can also clarify any misunderstandings.
Be A Disciplined Writer
Discipline is key to productivity. Thomas H. Benton, author of "The 5 Virtues of Successful Graduate Students," suggest that graduate students work on their dissertations every day if possible. If you spend fewer than 20 hours a week on your writing, it will be difficult to be productive enough to get published, let alone produce a dissertation. Benton found the most success in writing for a few hours in the morning, when his "energy level is high and my mind is relatively clear." Find a time that works best for you and commit to working at that time every day. Similar to an exercise routine, discipline is crucual to seeing results and being productive.
Embracing these suggestions will help you enjoy graduate school and develop the skills that will benefit you in your future career.
Meyers, K. (2011 Nov. 4). "Gaming Graduate School"
Brock, T. (2011 June 1). "Hacking your Committee Meeting"