One of the worst feelings is coming home at the end of the day and feeling as if you didn’t do enough that day. Grad school is notorious for making you feel like you haven’t done enough work for the day. Well, I am here today to tell you that you have done enough work and I want to let you in on a few secrets that I learned that will help you feel more productive. I want you to also know that you are not alone in these feelings. I guarantee that every grad student feels like they could have done more. Some grad students don’t stop working and burn out. It is part of the process of getting a grad degree, but I can hopefully help make it easier. So, if you are asking the question “am I working hard enough in grad school?” then this is the post for you.
Why we think we aren’t working hard enough in the first place.
So, grad school is a hard thing to accomplish because the work load can be very little, or extremely overwhelming all at once. You often have weeks where you have like 3 to 4 hours, tops, of work. The following week can be 70 hours of non-stop chaos. It’s just how things are and I don’t make the rules. One of the reason people ask themselves if they work hard enough in grad school is because there can be a ton of time where you aren’t doing work. You might be bored for quite some time.
Another reason that people may be thinking they don’t work hard enough is because they are comparing themselves to the highlights of other students. One of the most toxic things you can do in grad school is compare yourself to other students in your department or other departments. Sure, there may be someone that has 3 first-authored publications, but that does not mean you aren’t working just as hard as they are. I know many individuals that compare themselves to me. Yes, I work fairly hard but I also make sure I make time to have a life. These individuals say that I am always working and it makes them upset because they aren’t working as hard. I am here to tell you that you work just as hard, if not harder. You may see only the highlights that the person has. Also, they might be just looking busy to keep themselves preoccupied. It happens.
These individuals are definitely asking the same question as you, “Am I working hard enough in grad school?”. I know for a fact that every student asks this question regardless of how much they get done. A main factor is the workload that their adviser places on them as well. There are students that get overwhelmed with work, like way too much work, and can’t keep up. Of course they are going to think that they aren’t working hard enough, because they aren’t able to keep up. Then, there are people who don’t have as much work and see someone else working hard. They’ll probably ask themself if they are working hard enough. The best way to really determine if you are doing enough is to just ask your adviser. I promise you that if they haven’t called you out for being a slacker, then you are doing enough work.
How to get rid of the terrible feeling?
So, after you asked yourself “am I working hard enough in grad school?” you may have this feeling like you need to work harder? Is this true? It is for me because I always feel like I could be doing more. I could be writing more. Heck, I could be spending more time in the lab. Regardless of what you do, you’ll probably feel like you need to constantly be working. There is a bit of anxiety that might show up as well. So Ben, how do I get rid of this feeling? Well, I have a couple of ways that might work. I hope one or more work better with you and you try it out. There are probably plenty more methods to try, but I want to share the ones that have really helped me.
Walk it out
Technically, just get a bit active. Sometimes I feel this anxiety because I need to get all of this work done and theres not enough time to get it done. This is your brain lying to you. In fact, the reason you are getting so anxious is because you created a todo list that is unacheiveable bt are convinced that you can achieve it. In these cases, get active. Go on a walk, step away from work, and go do some form of cardio. I know that you may think this is dumb because you can get more done if you just keep working. That can be true but you probably won’t. Your head is not in the right place. Going for a walk may clear up you mind and actually make things a bit easier. You may realize how much work you have done and you may even realize that you are ahead of schedule. I find that when I feel like I am not doing enough work, a quick cardio session is what gets me motivate to do work. It also makes me feel more refreshed. So, next time you feel like you aren’t doing enough work, take a break. Go on a walk and listen to some music. It may just be the best thing for you.
Do a tiny bit of extra work
I always ask myself at the end of the day if I am working hard enough in grad school. It’s never during the middle of the day or in the morning. No, it’s always at the end of the day. If you are really feeling bad, designate an hour to just doing something that will be helpful towards your research. If you need to write a paragraph, write a paragraph. Some times, if I really feel like I didn’t work hard enough that day, I’ll find a research paper and read it before going to bed. Just a small task can really help you feel so much better. You do not have to commit like 3 hours after coming home to work. No, just designate an hour doing something constructive. Maybe just write down what to do for the next day or edit some of your manuscript that you’ve been putting off for a year lol. Anything is better than nothing and It will help significantly. I promise you that.
Create a To-do list each night and try and stick to it
This may take a bit of time to fully master. You may be asking “why do I need to master this?” Well, you don’t want to put so much on there that it overwhelms you and you don’t want to put too little that you get behind on work. You want enough on the list where it is doable, yet not overwhelming. I aim for 2 large things and 2 smaller tasks. Big tasks can be something like writing a page or two of my dissertation or get an experiment done. Small tasks can be something like email my adviser and ask a question or even something as little as drink coffee. The small tasks are going to make you really feel like you are getting a ton of work done. So, if you can, increase small attainable tasks and you’ll feel like your day is extremely productive.
If it get’s to be too much, seek professional help
Feeling like you aren’t doing enough is normal, but overwhelming yourself to the point of burnout is not. Grad school will push you to these limits and it is so important that you don’t let it get to that point. If you are working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and feel the need to work more, then you may need to see a therapist. I have a ton of posts about seeing a therapist, and you can read about them here. Therapist will help to find what the cause of this feeling is. Maybe it’s something deeper than just feeling like you are behind. Who knows. If you are working a ton, on the brink of burnout, and feeling hopeless, therapy is a must. Many colleges offer some form of service to help students. My school offered TalkSpace. I highly suggest just seeing a therapist regardless of your feelings. They will help give you the tools to tackle any and all of these feelings that you have. Therapy will help you become a better student by providing you the mental health required to be productive. I think this was the best way to combat that feeling of being behind in my work. It’s 100% worth it.
When you ask yourself, “am I working hard enough in grad school?” I want you to go to a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and say “Yes I Am!!!” You are doing a fantastic job and are good enough to get that degree. You have been working so hard for so long. Yes, there are people that may work harder, but that’s them. There will always be people that work harder. It doesn’t mean that they are better than you. Compare yourself to yourself and no one else. Always aim to be the best version of yourself and see yourself grow. You are amazing.
So, we have come to the end of another amazing blog post lol. Time to add a grad school meme to the post because you deserved it! I hope you enjoyed this post and I will see you in the next one. Peace.