Work-Life Balance in Grad School: How I Achieve and Maintain It

Work-life balance looks differently for everyone!

Let’s be honest – achieving work-life balance is probably the furthest thing from your mind when you start grad school. And even more so if you started grad school this year.

This past year has been anything but business as usual, and we’ve all had to adapt in one way or another. The summer was especially hectic after an academic year without many responsibilities. It made me wonder, as I’m sure most of us do, whether work-life balance was even achievable.

But I inevitably returned to the mindset that I had achieved before the pandemic hit and changed everything.

And that mindset is that there are more important things than academia.

Say it with me now: there are more important things.

There are more important things than:

  • Staying up all night to finish the readings for a class you don’t care about 
  • Answering emails from professors, students, and others that arrive outside of working hours
  • Saying yes to every “opportunity” to serve your department in ways that might look good on your CV
  • Spending an entire weekend trying to meet arbitrary deadlines that you set yourself

Sure, my circumstance might seem to apply only to those of you who have already achieved candidacy. But in reality I had always had this mindset; I’ve only pulled one all-nighter ever because they’ve never appealed to me more than my bed has. 

It just wasn’t until I had control over my own time that I realized that I wanted to make the most of it. It wasn’t until then that I realized that it was okay to have a life outside of school, and that it really wasn’t so hard to achieve work-life balance.

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3 Lessons I Learned from Guest Lecturing This Semester

A year ago, I wouldn’t have even considered guest lecturing. Or maybe, more accurately, two years ago, since a year ago I was presenting a paper at a conference in Prague.

I’ve never been especially charismatic. On most occasions it takes someone else initiating conversation for me to work up the courage to speak.

Even after years of practice, when I teach I always write out notes just in case I forget something. I’m always shocked when I find out that a colleague just “wings it” – no notes, not even a Powerpoint to illustrate their points.

So you might be wondering how I found myself guest lecturing not once, but five times in the course of the last term. Well, we have to thank COVID-19.

Can you believe it’s done something good?

The pandemic led to more virtual events than I can count and more time connecting with like-minded individuals online than ever before. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I probably wouldn’t have been considered a viable candidate for guest lecturing.

Heck, I didn’t even think of myself as a viable candidate when the instructors reached out to me. Imposter syndrome hit me and I’d question whether I had anything to contribute to people who had more experience than me in the field.

I’m just a graduate student after all.

While the fact that I am a graduate student is technically true, what isn’t true is that I wasn’t cut out for guest lecturing. I did have something to contribute. This was the first thing that I learned from my experience.

Guest lecturing can be daunting but rewarding
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