8 Ways to Be Productive in Grad School

Masters and doctorate (Ph.D.) students, also known as graduate students, focus on both the creation and conscientious conduct of substantial research in study programs. They work toward reaching their goals in areas of study that help people understand the human environment and navigate its uniqueness, complexities, and challenges.

In seeking to contribute to their field, graduate students also broaden their understanding and knowledge. As such, they are highly competent professionals whom society expects to hold remarkable credentials and exhibit expertise. Businesses and organizations across all industries consider them assets in the workplace. Similarly, graduate students also excel in setting up their independent practice.

Here’s our feature on how you can be productive as a grad student:

Graduate School Statistics
Skills for Graduate Study
How to be Productive in Graduate School
* Determine your niche early on.
* Practice time management.
* Set up a routine that works.
* Look to your mentors and accountability partners.
* Get published.
* Join professional groups and organizations.
** Repeat: Health first.
** Balance your lifestyle and academics.


Graduate School Statistics

Who are America’s graduate students? A 2017 study revealed that female students comprised 59% or 1.8 million of the total graduate school enrollment and 41% or 1.2 million male students. Graduate school enrollment rates—including in Master’s and PhDs, and specialized graduate programs—is expected to grow by 3% between 2017 and 2028, with up to 3.1 million enrollees.


Skills for Graduate Study

Graduate school is never easy! It takes dedication and commitment, and demands a lot from students! If you’re considering graduate study, assess whether or not you’ve got what it takes:

  • Good academic standing (to qualify for graduate study)
  • Commitment to comprehensive research
  • Optimism and a keen interest in learning
  • Curiosity and open-mindedness
  • Excellent work ethics
  • Honesty in your work
  • Patience and perseverance
  • Reliability and maturity
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Willingness to work with instruments and equipment
  • Ability to organize tasks or co-supervise others
  • Ability to work independently and with others

How to be Productive in Graduate School

Determine your niche early on.

Decide on your specialized field or niche in graduate school. During the first year, gain as much experience as you can on research and writing.  Keep up with the relevant and latest trends in your specialization. As you move closer to the completion of your graduate study, you’ll become increasingly laser-focused on this niche.

Practice time management.

At the undergraduate level, one may have thought that time management is quite tricky. Graduate school is next-level complex! You need to write, research, and study most of the time, keep a job (to keep you financially afloat) and go through the stages of early adulthood all at the same time.

A fundamental rule in graduate school is time management. Study smart, for one. If you are taking an aptitude test, skimming your notes might work. Are you sitting for a written exam? Treat your notes like living documents, and spend more time studying.

Set up a routine that works.

Whether you’re doing basic research or writing your thesis, make it a habit to record the number of words you used, and the time spent on these tasks. You can set a word count target, and give yourself a short break or call it a day as soon as you reach this goal. You can choose to take it a step further every time you feel like you can do more.

Trying more routines to help you achieve your academic writing goals for the rest of the calendar year won’t hurt. Map out the steps you need to make it to that goal and set your completion timeline.

A seven-year plan, for one, may sound complicated, but it’s a surefire way to cope with the unexpected circumstances in your graduate school journey.

Look to your mentors and accountability partners.

Graduate students must focus on regular accountability. Talk to someone regarding your plans and schedule a virtual or personal meeting with an accountability partner to see how things are going. Applications like Grid Diary will assist you in making this assessment.

Look for committed mentors or coaches who are genuinely interested in your success. Mentors should be able to help you be accountable, plan what needs to be done, develop strategies, and resolve issues. They can provide practical advice on your project and boost your confidence.

Get published.

By writing and publishing articles frequently, graduate students make themselves stand out in the job market. Being a published author of academic journals is always a plus to your credentials.

Write daily! Research indicates that if graduate students commit at least 30 minutes a day to writing, they make steady progress towards a writing target and finish the project quickly. Keep a type of “Ph.D. journal” to help you conceptualize an explore ideas. Record your achievements, big and small, as well as reminders for your areas for improvement. This journal should gets you back on track when you feel like you’ve reached a dead-end.

Journal writing is a bit more personal, so you can freely use your creativity in it.

Join professional groups and organizations.

Spend quality time with colleagues, friends, and family. It is a must for your mental, emotional, and physical health. In school, communicate with your fellow graduate students. Be part of a system of support and social network that will have you sharing insights or giving and receiving opinions.

Joining an organization in your field of graduate study widens your professional network. These networks can send you to academic conferences, or keep you in exclusive groups that help you in your academic writing. You can constantly get in touch with them online or better yet, set up a regular time to meet with them!

Beyond boosting productivity in your academic writing and graduate school work, these tips help you thrive in graduate school:

Repeat: Health first.

The importance of sleep, exercise, nutrition cannot be overstated! These three can significantly and positively impact your health in the long run. Do you enjoy ice skating, rollerskating, dancing, playing video games, or hiking? Take the time out to do what will relax you and take your mind off the pressure of being in graduate school.

For graduate students, pulling an all-nighter to squeeze in more time for studying isn’t uncommon. Remember, however, that lack of sleep may cause all types of health problems, just like inadequate exercise and food can be damaging to your health. Take occasional naps during study breaks to regain your strength.

Balance your lifestyle and academics.

Graduate students deal with a plethora of obligations beyond graduate school. It can be extremely difficult to meet them all while engaging in other rewarding areas of living! Achieving this balance may well be one of the biggest challenges!

Acknowledging the different hats you wear as a student, an employee, a family member, or a friend is crucial to find that balance. Set your priorities right and avoid conflicting school, work, or family schedules.

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