I feel that it's important to deconstruct and share this experience with anyone who is either considering graduate school (to convince you to do otherwise) or anyone who is currently a graduate student (to let you know that you're not alone in "the struggle").
Ten Things I Learned in Lent Term
1. Stressing over an essay that is worth anything less than 100% of the course grade is a waste of time, full-stop.
2. Treat yourself!. For example, when I finish a paper, I get a pedicure and if I finish all of my readings for the week, I'm allowed to have brunch on a Sunday. Even for small things, like going to a boring lecture, I found that reserving a small reward, like a long, hot shower or an extra hour in bed, was quite motivating.
3. Make realistic to-do lists. It is not reasonable to say that you will do 10 readings in one day. By number five or six you'll be asleep at your desk. Oh and don't forget to reward yourself (see above) after you have successfully checked everything off your list.
4. Take "big picture" things like your dissertation or your job search one at a time. Focusing on the task at hand is the only option that I have - right now, that task is my dissertation. After all, I am a full-time student. I know that my job search will be a full-time job come September, and I'm going to wait until then to worry about it. During the term I found myself stressed about my career prospects, and luckily, I realized that even though it is important, it isn't healthy to stress about it now because it doesn't have an impending due date (like that essay I should be writing).
5. Advisors knows best. My advisor is my go-to, for all things academic and some things personal. He is full of wisdom and he likes Sam Hunt and Starbucks, so I trust him most when I have questions and issues. Just the other day, I was at a crossroads in my research. After talking with him for less than two minutes, I had my "AH HA!" moment. I'm incredibly grateful for him.
6. Don't talk about yourself so much. By the middle of the term, I was just plain tired of listening to my course mates talk about themselves and their past experiences in seminars. Personally, I was tired of talking about the Affordable Care Act before classes even began in the fall, and it was disappointing that my course mates couldn't leave their pasts behind. And while I suppose it's easy and comfortable to relate discussion topics to past experiences (whether academic or professional), it just doesn't seem fair to yourself or your course mates to dwell on that experience. Especially in social policy, new ideas need to be brought to the table to keep the conversation moving forward, perhaps toward innovative policy solutions!
7. A cold is a productivity killer. Take your vitamin C, kids! Graduate students don't have time to get sick.
8. Speaking of productivity killers... Netflix is the enemy.
9. Find a go-to study spot. Luckily, my favorite seat in the LSE Library was waiting for me when I returned for my MSc program. When I know that I need to focus and, for lack of a better term, "get shit done," I head there. And actually, as soon as I finish this post, I'll be posted up there for the remainder of the afternoon.
10. Eat brain food. When schoolwork piles up, students tend to do two things: replace meals with coffee or binge on comfort food. I'm not a nutritionist, but I know that neither my brain not my body function at 100% when I don't eat well. It's certainly easy to skip meals under stress and to binge on Pret because it's easy. But, it's also quite easy to pack a healthy snack for a day on campus. My go-to is a Tupperware full of healthy snacks - I usually bring edamame, strawberries or grapes, a handful of walnuts and some Babybell cheeses. It takes me two minutes to put this snack pack together and it keeps me going during the day.