How do you stay sane in grad school?

How do you stay sane in grad school?

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My friends joke with me and say that I travel more than anyone they know, which is especially strange for a graduate student. We aren’t supposed to have the means or the mode to travel, let alone the time, and they ask me how I manage it. At the recent Graduate Open House and Preview Days events, prospective students have asked me how I am able to juggle everything. For me, these two seemingly disparate questions are related. In order to stay sane juggling graduate school and work, I need an outlet. Travel is that outlet, and I need it to help me structure my time.

This sounds strange, so allow me to explain.

I need a schedule to get things done. If I don’t have one, the procrastination takes over. Then, sometimes things don’t get done at all. I work three part-time jobs and take classes full time. I’m busy, busy, busy. So, it seems like I shouldn’t have free time and shouldn’t be able to travel. But, I need fun. I need to decompress. Here’s my secret: one of my jobs funds my “fun” account, which I use for things like a few beers with friends, going to a movie, or travel. Then, adding this travel into my schedule, I’m able to push forward for the semester. I know that I have to get certain readings or projects done before upcoming trips.

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Then, I have to figure out how to dole out my time to certain projects. I use every minute I can to multitask. When I’m inputting data for one job, I’m listening to a podcast that may help out a story or music that may inspire me. When on the train, I’m doing reading for class or going over the latest draft of something I’ve written. When I’m at work and there’s a lull in between tasks, I write for 15-20 minutes. This way, I have time to unwind a bit when I get home. Also, I love working on planes or the Amtrak.

But, I also need something to look forward to. “If I get this done, I can watch a sitcom or read a chapter of a book for fun.” I have to tell myself these things. This is a semester of bigger projects, though, and by creating trips or having visitors, I can easily tell myself when to have a huge project done. “I can have a draft of my 40+ page piece done by Thursday, and then Friend A comes to visit!”

Recently and in the future, I went on or will be going on some trips. So, in the upcoming weeks, I’ll present some information on weekends away from school (probably interspersed with a post or two about school itself). I went to St. Louis last weekend, and I’ll be in Los Angeles, Fort Myers, New York, and Atlanta all before the middle of January. Trust me, we all need a break, and I’m one that maximizes those opportunities.