8 Ways to Be Productive in Grad School

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Updated: February 28, 2024, Reading time: 12 minutes

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Are you looking for ways to be productive in grad school? We’ve got you covered! We understand that many graduate students must also be employed, either part-time or full-time, in a wide range of jobs. The constant push-and-pull between work and studies, not to mention the personal commitments, will eventually result in one being sacrificed for the other!

You may, for example, start slacking off on your graduate school commitments in favor of your work commitments. Your productivity in graduate school becomes compromised, and it isn’t a good thing considering the high academic standards and strict deadlines on the milestones. Indeed, maintaining consistent productivity in your academics is a must if you want to earn your degree within your expected timeline!

Graduate School Productivity - fact

Keep in mind, too, that master’s 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.

The dissertation, or research paper, is undoubtedly the most demanding aspect of your graduate studies. You’re not just contributing to the existing body of knowledge about your chosen area of study. You’re also offering solutions to improve the human experience, and the research will take up most of your time outside of your other personal and professional responsibilities. 

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. With such high expectations, being productive is a must! Here then is our feature on how you can be 100% productive as a graduate student yet still be able to enjoy life.

Need more help? Check out these links for important tips:

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Graduate School Statistics

Who are America’s graduate students? In terms of gender, females outnumber males in most areas of study. The ratio was more than 2:1 (female to male) in the areas of public administration, health and medical sciences, and education for doctorate degrees. 

This is also the case for the master’s degrees, particularly in the health and medical sciences where females outnumbered males 4:1! Females also dominated the fields of public administration and education. 

Females also outnumber males, although in a less significant number, in the areas of social and behavioral sciences, biological and agricultural sciences, and arts and humanities. The areas of study where more males earned graduate degrees are in business, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences, and physical and earth sciences. 

These 2020 numbers are far from the 1950s when males outnumbered females (more than 2:1) in master’s degrees earned. 

In a Council of Graduate Schools survey, applications for graduate school increased by 7.3% while a 1.8% increase was noted for first-time graduate enrollment (Fall 2020). These gains were partly due to the rise in enrollment from underrepresented minority groups. 

Of the total number of graduate students, about 43.4% are enrolled part-time. Women and individuals from underrepresented groups make up the majority of the part-time students, too. The highest increase in first-time graduate enrollment came from  Latinx (20.4%), Asian (16.7%), and Black/African American (16%) students.

Skills for Graduate Study

Being a productive graduate student is never easy! It takes dedication and commitment, and demands hard work, time management and focus from students!

Here are the personal traits and habits that are vital to grad school productivity and success.

If you have these traits, then you’re more likely to be a productive graduate student! But you will also find that the following eight tips will boost your efficiency and, thus, your productivity level. Think of it as spending less time, energy and effort while still achieving your desired results! 

How to be Productive in Graduate School

Determine your niche early on.

You must decide on your specialized field or niche in graduate school even before you enroll – or at least, before the end of your first term. This is crucial to your productivity since you can focus your readings and research on your chosen area of study. 

You will be able to shut out the noise, so to speak because you know what you should concentrate your time, energy and effort on. The greater your focus on your area of study, the more productive you will become!

Keep these tips in mind when choosing and establishing your niche: 

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 a 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 and these strategies have been proven effective.

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. 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. This isn’t about rewards and punishments either! Instead, your mentors and accountability partners will inspire and motivate, perhaps remind and reprimand, you when you’re lagging behind in your desired accomplishments. You will grow from their constructive criticism if you’re willing to see it that way. 

How can you start with an accountability plan? 

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 toward a writing target and finish the project quickly. 

Aside from writing daily, particularly on your assignments and dissertation, you should also read for pleasure! Doing so not only relaxes your mind and body by giving it time out from the intellectual demands of graduate studies, but it also enhances brain activity, critical thinking and communication skills.  

Keep a type of “Ph.D. journal” to help you conceptualize and explore ideas. Record your achievements, big and small, as well as reminders for your areas for improvement. This journal should get 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, and nutrition cannot be overstated! These three can significantly and positively impact your health in the long run. Do you enjoy ice skating, roller skating, 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 but it’s possible with these tips!

Acknowledging the different hats you wear as a student, an employee, a family member, or a friend is crucial to finding that balance. To stand out in grad school, set your priorities right and avoid conflicting school, work, or family schedules.

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.