Carving Out Time: Spring Semester

Academic “spring” may begin at the start of the semester in January, but March is always an exciting time as true spring is just around the corner (spring equinox, holla). This period of time can get very busy for graduate students. It’s tempting to get ALL THE THINGS done before summer hits: comprehensive exams, getting out that manuscript, and that other manuscript, securing summer field work or internships, and a whole slew of other goals. Keeping track of everything we hope to get done means a litany of lists. Both of us love to make lists, lists for groceries, packing, what needs to be done around the house, around the office, lists of code to run when it finally works, lists of things that could be wrong with our R code, all the lists. One of our favorite lists has got to be the List of Fun Way to Relax After Finishing a Thing. It’s very tempting to put off a lot of things while you’re hyper focused on an academic goal, but we think it’s important to carve out time for at least some of the fun things along the way. We also always love hearing how others deal with the constant work-life compromise struggle and warding off burnout.

Meridith’s Springtime Frivolities

This time last year I was nearly totally consumed with prepping for my comprehensive exam. It was a very stressful time (pro tip: don’t discover the error in your code until after your comps) but I combatted burnout by making time to get to the gym, get enough sleep each night, and escape for spring break to visit my sister (…but also working on fixing my code, which I’m lucky enough to be able to do from anywhere). This year my focus is on getting out two manuscripts before summer. It’s very exciting to have both projects near (re)submission for publication, but when I simply can’t stare at RStudio or Overleaf any longer I pivot to a fun, active alternative.

1. Get Moving, Get Outside

I have found the most important priority for me is to stay active in cold weather and take advantage of nice days as it gets warmer. For me that means enjoying any and all of the following:

  • yoga,
  • fitness classes,
  • bouldering,
  • cycling,
  • running,
  • anything to keep the winter blues away until true spring arrives.

2. Restful Mind, Productive Mind

To combat the feeling of guilt during downtime or rest periods, I’ve been trying to reframe my way of thinking about the tasks I enjoy from the comforts of my apartment. By treating self care time as productivity time I’ve been able to move away from letting work take over my free time. Now as part of my weekly At Home productivity I prioritize

  • nail painting
  • writing lots of postcards
  • reading/audio-booking a ton
  • keeping up with STS posts
  • learning a new language – Duolingo Spanish

3. An Adventure is Awaiting

One of my favorite mini-distractions is planning upcoming travel. Both personal and professional! I took a trip over spring break to South Florida that was packed with fun and relaxation. I made sure to check off another National Park from my list, a life goal Rachel and I share. I’m also exctied for two upcoming weddings in April and May and then summer will contain at least two conferences and a research workshop! Speaking of conferences, allow yourself to get excited about them! Sending off abstracts can seem like a line item on a to do list but celebrate all the awesome things you’re accomplishing that this represents!

We hope to hear about all of y’all’s fun ways of making time for yourself. It can be difficult sometimes to allow one’s self to leave research and responsibilities behind occasionally, but allowing your brain to focus elsewhere can also be very helpful to come back fresh to your work. If you feel that your advisor or supervisor is not encouraging or even allowing enough free time/time off, please consider talking to someone to advocate for yourself. Some times that means an honest conversation with your advisor, or looking elsewhere for support and advice. Universities usually have graduate chairs, ombsbudspersons, department heads, deans, HR folks, or even your student government/unions. We are also here if you need someone to listen.


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