Work-life balance as a grad student can be tricky, particularly when you're beginning a grad program. The pressures and demands of grad school are intense, with grad courses, conference proposals, thesis requirements, and TA or teaching responsibilities. Add all this to what is probably already a full plate of family, work, and social obligations, and it can be tempting to just crawl under the covers and refuse to come out . . . ever. But take heart! Here are a few tips to help with that work-life balance, so you don't go completely crazy throughout the course of your degree.
1) Manage your time. This can be time-consuming in itself, but it's worth it. At the beginning of each week, month or day - whatever works for you - set aside some time to prioritize all the things you need to do, and set deadlines for yourself to accomplish these things. The trick here is not letting yourself get overwhelmed by the To-Do list looming over you - instead, break things down into quick, bite-size chunks, like those perfect little Halloween-sized chocolate bars! I honestly give myself credit for drinking a glass of water and walking the dog first thing in the morning. This makes me feel like I'm already on the getting-shit-done train early in the day, and it's easier to check a few more things off the list before my brain runs out of steam.
2) Set work limits. Speaking of running out of brainpower, set yourself work limits, so that you're not reading, checking email, or obsessing over your research ALL THE TIME. Decide how late each night it's okay for you to work, and set aside a day or two each week when you do NO work unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. This is hard - sometimes I really can't resist checking my email at 11pm - but be disciplined! ...and what should you do with all that free time?! Go outside! Hang out with other humans! Play video games! Dance in your kitchen! Binge-watch some Netflix! The important thing is that you're giving your hard-working little brain a well-deserved break.
3) See people. Remember how I suggested hanging out with other humans?! What a novel idea! Even if you're introverted and love your alone time (which is also crucial to staying sane/alive in a grad program), it can be really rejuvenating to spend time with other people. Find a group of friends to plan a weekly movie night, check out the odd SAGE event, or even plan to work alongside a friend at a cafe once in a while - you can still be productive, just do it in the company of others! The people in your program are smart and funny and awesome (and as your Social Coordinator, I'm pretty sure I'm the resident expert on this subject!), so get to know them!
4) Develop a support system. This should include faculty and colleagues - people who know what it's like to be deep in the swamp of academic life. If you have a supervisor who you can talk to when you're having a meltdown, colleagues who will celebrate little victories with you, or (former) professors who will send you postcards or Muppet videos for no apparent reason, it's a lot easier to handle life when things get tough.
5) Be kind to yourself. If you don't get everything done that you planned to get done today, it's okay. If all your peers are publishing and conferencing and you haven't done any of that cool stuff, it's okay. If you're halfway through your coursework and still have no idea what your thesis/MRP/dissertation will discuss, it's okay. It will happen! You're smart and capable and you belong in a grad program, even if it doesn't always feel like it. Give yourself some credit for being here in the first place, and getting out of bed this morning. If you're feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed or frustrated, take a break, do something that makes you happy, and then get back at it tomorrow and check a few things off of that To-Do list. You can do this!
Obviously these are just a few suggestions for finding balance in grad life, but it's a good place to start! If you have any other suggestions, feel free to contribute and let us know your strategies for maintaining sanity as an English grad student.