Tag Archives: Time Management

Cooking 101: How to cook in grad school with no money and no time

Written by Alia Wulff, Cognitive Psychology Ph.D. Student

I’m sure most of you have been on your own for at least a few years. You’ve probably dabbled in cooking, maybe tried your hand at baking. You might make your own breakfast or bring lunch to the office. But a lot of you have probably (and totally understandably) been ordering food more often than you should be. It’s easy and delicious and even healthy on occasion. But it’s not cheap. And in grad school cheap is a top priority.

Alia’s turmeric-spiced garbanzo beans and chicken on rice with lime

This blog post is not intended to magically turn everyone into amazing cooks. I just want to show you that it is possible, even easy, to grocery shop, cook, and meal prep like a pro while in graduate school for way less than it costs to eat out.

The number one thing to figure out is what you have to have in your pantry at all times. My staples are pasta, rice, beans (black, garbanzo, and refried), tortillas, tomato sauce, chicken, yogurt, eggs, bread (probably in bagel form), some fruits and veggies, and hot sauce. I can make a different thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for a week out of those items. Oil and seasonings are also pantry staples, but they rarely need to be replenished so they don’t really count.

The next order of business is figuring out where to get your groceries. It’s really hard for me to get to a grocery store and back because I don’t have a car, so I use Amazon Fresh. It costs me less for a monthly subscription than a Lyft from the grocery store twice a month would. With that service, my pantry staples cost me less than $50 a week. I generally order food twice a month and pay about $80-$100 each time. I’ve never spent more than $200 a month on necessary groceries. Don’t ask me about my Pringles and Twizzlers budget, though.

Alia’s avocado toast with hard-boiled egg and Tajin seasoning

Next, plan your meals. You don’t have to go crazy and make a chart with dates, lists, and bullet points. Just know what you have in your pantry and make a list of things you can make that week. Then, when you get home you can check your list, find something that matches up with the energy you have left, and make that. Don’t try making a complicated feast when you’re dead on your feet or you will never try cooking again. My go-to lazy meal is to microwave some beans, pop them in a tortilla with some leftover chicken and rice, dash some hot sauce on there, and eat it without a plate because laziness and washing dishes do not mix.

Speaking of leftovers, here is an actual tip: make too much food. I know some people have weird issues with leftovers, but you are a grad student now and literally cannot afford the time or money to have wasteful beliefs about food. Make too much food on the weekends, pop the extras into containers, and then you have multiple meals for the week. Made too much chicken? Put leftovers in the fridge and have it with pasta or rice the next day. Made too much pasta because determining how much pasta to make probably requires the use of black magic? Pop some sauce (or some butter, I won’t judge) in it, portion it into containers, and – voila – you have lunches for a few days. Made too much rice? Make rice pudding for breakfast with flax or protein powder and use honey instead of sugar so you can pretend you’re not just eating pudding for breakfast (even though you are and that’s perfectly valid).

Pudding for breakfast is a reminder of the biggest point of this post: it’s important to not feel bad about food. You can ignore everything in this post as long as you remember this one thing. If you end up eating out more than you should have, if you eat unhealthy food for a few days, if you always put an extra bag of chips or pile of candy bars in your cart, you are not a bad person. You will always find something to beat yourself up about. Don’t let your personal method to replenish calories be one of them.

Dancing through graduate school: when passions and academia collide

Written by Gina Mantica, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

Ever since the age of 5, I’ve been a dancer. I used to dance around my living room to Disney music, until my parents decided I needed some sort of outlet for my dancing habit. My parents signed me up for ballet classes shortly thereafter, and I’ve been taking dance classes and performing on stage ever since.

I was in my second year of undergrad when I was invited to perform in my first professional gig. I remember the moment vividly: I was at a retreat when my long-time mentor (and now, friend) left me a voicemail. I remember the feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I listened to my mentor say she had an opportunity for me to perform and get paid for my dancing. To this day, the voicemail is saved to my cell phone. That voicemail not only changed the trajectory of my dance career, but also altered how I now see myself “fitting into” academia.

Five-and-a-half years have passed since I performed in my first paid dance gig. Since then, I’ve danced in more professional productions than I can recall, ranging from a full-length production with Jazz Inc. Dance to a short-lived HGTV show “Spontaneous Construction”.

Also since then, I’ve grown a fondness for academia. I love learning and being able to research questions I am curious about. My time as a Ph.D. student here at Tufts is nothing short of a dream. However, academia is not always fond of me.

Since entering grad school, I have not stopped pursuing my passion for dance. Dance provides me with much more than just exercise; through dance, I find joy and a sense of comfort that I cannot get anywhere else. My refusal to give up something that I consider to be both a means of self-care and a crucial part of my identity rubs some academics, who, themselves, have lost sight of what a work-life balance should look like, the wrong way.

The pressures to conform to some academic ideal of a work-life balance (which, in reality, is not balanced at all) are not missing at Tufts. However, Tufts is such an incredibly diverse community and it is possible to find mentors and colleagues to surround yourself with that share your own opinion of what a work-life balance should look like. At Tufts, I have found friends in my department who will go take dance classes with me, or who will take a day off from work to go to the beach. I have found mentors who support my love of writing and outreach and who will provide me with opportunities to pursue my interests outside of the lab.

Most importantly, however, I have grown to realize that I don’t need to conform to some ideal of what an academic should look like; at Tufts, I am able to relieve myself of the pressures of “fitting into” academia and just be myself.

Preparing to Defend

 

Preparing to defend my thesis was the most mentally, emotionally, and at times, physically, challenging part of graduate school. After my final field season, I thought it was going to be easy. All I have to do is write. I’ve written a ton. Piece of cake.

I was so wrong.

Yes, as graduate students we write a lot. During my time in graduate school, I wrote scientific papers, grant proposals, popular science articles, blog posts, etc. But I had never written about the same subject so continuously. I started to get sick of my study system (honey bees), which made me sad, because I love honey bees!

When I finally handed my thesis in to my committee, I had to prepare for the actual defense. This was also a challenge. What papers should I read? What is my committee going to ask me? What if they hate my thesis?

In the end, it all worked out. I successfully defended my thesis and the defense was enjoyable! I didn’t need to stress as much as I did.

Preparing to defend your thesis is going to be challenging, but here are some things I realized that may keep you from psyching yourself out too much.

Use a citation manager!

First, a specific piece of advice: start using a citation manager when you get to grad school, keep it updated, and use it consistently! This will make the references section of your thesis much easier to deal with. I didn’t start using a citation manager until year three, and when it came time to write the thesis in year five, I was not happy with past Rachael. I use EndNote but there are many other options and the library hosts workshops on almost all of them.

Keep your committee in the loop.

Throughout your time in graduate school, talk to your committee. Update them on data at committee meetings, discuss methods, ask for suggestions on writing when relevant. If you do this throughout graduate school, your committee won’t be surprised at defense time, and neither will you. If you take the time to get to know your committee members, you may be able to anticipate their questions.

I realize this doesn’t work for that external committee member you may be required to have. When choosing your external committee member, choose someone who knows your field, and read his/her relevant papers. I did this for my external committee member, and I was able to successfully anticipate some of her questions. Also, when it comes to your external member, don’t be afraid to ask around. Ask past graduate students from your lab who they chose and why; ask about their experience in the closed defense.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Remember, the written thesis you hand in to your committee is technically a draft. As a perfectionist, this was difficult for me. I was working so hardto make every chapter, every figure, every page, so that it could be publication ready. But with a document that long, it may not be possible in the time you have. And that’s ok. Part of your committee’s job is to suggest edits, which you can then use when/if you publish.

It’s a conversation.

On defense day, I was most worried about the closed defense. What if they hate my research? What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?

Part of these nerves will be alleviated by fostering a relationship with your committee. Also, think of the closed defense as a conversation rather than a “grilling” session. Your committee asks you questions, you answer the questions as best you can. Some questions lead to other questions. It’s just a discussion– a discussion about something you’ve been studying for 4 – 6 years and you know really well.

My closed defense was a fun, productive experience. Sure, I couldn’t answer some of the bigger, theoretical questions, but it was fun to brainstorm and discuss ideas.

Take care of yourself.

Even if you follow all my advice, preparing to defend is going to be difficult. Graduate school is supposed to be hard. Throughout this process (and all of graduate school), remember to take care of yourself.

Countless hours of sitting at a computer takes a toll on your body (this is the physical challenge). Take breaks to stretch or go for a walk. Give your eyes a break from the screen. Drink water. Eat food. (Both sound simple but trust me, you might forget.)

Stay active, whatever that means to you. Do yoga, go for a run, kickbox, get outside, play a board game, grab coffee with friends. And don’t feel guilty about taking time away from school to stay active! Your mental health is important. Your mental health is important. Your mental health is important.

 Remember, you are not alone.

Writing a thesis is an inherently isolating process. Don’t let it get to the point where you feel like you’re alone, because you’re not. Talk to past graduate students from your lab (this was my greatest therapy while writing/preparing to defend), attend the graduate writing exchange, visit family, grab coffee with friends (yes, I’m saying it again).

Graduate school takes a village and you have a support system in your mentor, your committee, your friends, your family. Use that support system.

 And finally, celebrate!

Following your defense, take time to celebrate your accomplishment! Getting a higher degree takes dedication, ambition, and a lot of hard work. You deserve to be proud of yourself!

Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. 2018

How to manage working full-time as a Certificate student

 Written by Penelope Seagrave, Human Computer Interaction Certificate

Working full-time while attending classes in the evening has been quite an exciting juggling act. I have completed my audiobook, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which should provide sufficient explanation for how much driving I’ve had to do to accommodate this lifestyle (for those who don’t know, this book is over 1000 pages – also, definitely recommend). I’ve sacrificed many precious Sundays and weekday evenings to the Tisch Library. My evening exercise routine has now become a distant memory. I’ve even had to ask for an extension on this very blog assignment. Nonetheless, the satisfaction I receive from working towards this dream of mine has made the whole experience so fulfilling and worth it.

I get to spend my once expendable free time with those who share my interests and listening to brilliant professors explain theories and studies that are beyond fascinating to me. My assignments, while challenging and often time consuming, are so enjoyable for me. I absolutely love learning and I especially love learning the material covered in the Human-Computer Interaction Certificate.

I am so happy to be studying at Tufts. The pursuance of this dream more than outweighs the sacrifices I’ve had to make for it. I truly do believe that you can always find time for the things that matter to you.

That being said, beside my excitement and positive approach to this experience, there are definitely a few tips I have for those considering working full time while pursuing graduate school:

  1. Get a planner, one you enjoy using and can manage carrying with you. Mine has alpacas on the front cover. It is important to stay on top of deadlines – both work and school. It’s nice and comforting to know that you are organized and it substantially reduces the chaos that comes with balancing all of your obligations.
  2. Make friends with your classmates and, more importantly, your teammates. If you can look forward to spending your cherished weekends and evenings with people you can laugh with, it makes all the difference.
  3. Get an audiobook or find a podcast you enjoy listening to. You’re most likely going to be driving or taking the T quite a lot. Instead of seeing this as an idle waste of time, devote this opportunity to learning something new and it won’t feel like such an expense.
  4. Classes aren’t free. Be sure to understand how much your program is going to cost, and make sure to plan ahead. Of course, it will all be worth it in the end.
  5. Take the classes that fascinate you. Now that you are no longer are an undergrad, you should have a better sense of what you enjoy and want to understand. Pursue your interests and class will be full of exciting wonder and curiosity.

This has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I am so happy to be back in school and learning. Working makes it possible, and allows me to make headway in my career at the same time. I strongly recommend considering this option if you are able to.

 

Midterm Season Tips and Tricks

Written by Keri Carvalho, Psychology Ph.D. Candidate

Ah, yes, it is that time of year again. Midterm season. Despite the beautiful foliage surrounding us, we are all moving a bit slower, becoming ever more stressed and are very much sleep deprived. In a time where it seems like due dates and assignments are never ending, it may seem that the only goal is to survive the madness. However, as a time management consultant, I can tell you there are some things to consider that just might make your life a bit easier once and for all.

  • Do not underestimate the importance of self-­‐care! This includes showering, eating, and sle Now, these might seem like the basics (and they are), but during hectic times, we students have the tendency of letting our academic lives overtake the importance of these other basic needs. For some of us, our stress leads to lack of appetite and for others binge eating. Know your tendencies and keep an eye on them during midterm season. Perhaps keep a food journal, or maybe just remember not to keep too many of the sugary or salty snacks that you’re drawn to in your room. And of course, there’s sleep. Sleep is much too important for our body’s proper functioning to give up. This is the time when we consolidate information, and recalibrate our bodies to work for us the next day. Make sure that you are getting at least 7 hours of sleep to help stay alert the next day, and of course to keep the flu at bay!
  • Along the same lines, get to the gym. The doctors are not telling us to get exercise for no reason. It’s not only good for your heart and lungs; it’s good for your brain! Regular exercise can help your memory, thinking skills, and perhaps most importantly, your mood. We all know this, and yet, so many of us don’t make time for it. You might wonder when you could possibly have time. While starting a new exercise routine is not advised during midterm season when an intensive routine could become another stressor, it is advised to consider exercise as part of a daily habit as soon as midterms are over. You will have another tool in your belt to deal with the stress when it comes time for final exams. For now, if you don’t have a regular exercise routine, get outside! Walking around the hilly campus in the crisp fall air just might make your heart and mind a little happier.
  • Reward yourself. Exam season is tough, and there is nothing less satisfying than handing in a midterm paper only to turn around and immediately move into studying for an exam. You don’t need to take the whole weekend off, but don’t be afraid to spend an hour or two doing something that feels rewarding to yo Haven’t seen your best friend in a few days? Spend an afternoon together. Haven’t eaten your favorite food in awhile? Go to Davis Square and explore your options.
  • Mini-­‐breaks are I know this comes as a surprise, but we are not robots-­‐ not even during midterm season. We cannot possibly continue to study, write, edit, review, and on and on for hours on end. Our minds simply cannot focus so intensively for an extended period of time. Therefore, let’s consider the mini-­‐break. What’s a mini-­‐break? It really depends on an individual’s preference and what works best for you, but it’s the idea that we give ourselves some time after working for a certain amount of time to do something that feels good for us. It usually works in cycles, so for example, if you work for an hour straight, maybe you then take 15 minutes to watch Netflix. I know, I know, you might not be able to pull yourself away, which brings me to my next point.
  • Timers can If you do decide to take mini-­‐breaks, it’s important to not only time your breaks, but also time how long you’re working for. Knowing how long certain kinds of work takes can be really helpful when planning out your daily schedule moving forward in the semester. It also can be helpful to know how long we’re actually doing work. Many people think they’re spending a lot of time doing work, when in fact they are spending much more time worrying about completing the work than actually doing it! Just don’t forget to stop that timer when you start socializing.

Managing Time as a Graduate Student

Written by Priyanjana Pramanik, Economics M.S. 2018

Having been a Jumbo now for one semester, I now feel entirely qualified to pass on the wisdom I have learned since arriving at Tufts in September. During orientation week, one of the pieces of advice I heard a lot were ‘You’re going to have to learn how to manage small amounts of time’. Another was this: ‘No matter what, try to maintain some semblance of work-life balance’. And I thought, ‘Piece of cake.’ As you can imagine, I was very, very wrong. In grad school, the workload creeps up on you: it is very reasonable and completely manageable, but you have to stay on top of it, all the time.

It’s Monday. You have an assignment due Thursday, and you think you have lots of time, because you do. You can’t get to it until Wednesday, but that should be okay, right? Except that on Wednesday, you receive a stack of papers to grade, plus there’s a recitation section you have to teach immediately after class, and now there’s a paper you have to read for Friday’s class. You wanted to go to office hours before your Thursday class, but now you won’t have time because of everything you need to do. And you need to do the dishes. And laundry.

Oh yeah, and next week, you have a project due, and your partner for it tells you he’s leaving town tonight and won’t be back until the day before.

That kind of snowballing kept happening to me towards the beginning. So I ended up staying up late to grade, waking up ridiculously early to finish assignments and generally turning into a sleep-deprived mess. I felt like I was working all the time, but was never getting on top of my work. I’m pretty sure this is a pretty common problem in grad school, but when it happens to me I feel like I’m out of control and everyone else has it all figured out, which is probably not true.

Anyway, while I haven’t figured everything out (I’m writing this at 7 a.m., think what you will), things are definitely better. I set a few rules for myself, and since I started making an effort to follow them, my workload hasn’t been quite as overwhelming.

  • I take sleep very, very seriously, and would probably spend more than sixteen hours a day at it if I could. One thing I’ve learned is that the less you sleep, the less you get done.
  • Do things before you need to do them. In my admittedly limited experience of grad school, there are times when you have a mountain of work and times when you have none, at not too many in between. Get things over with long before they’re due, and you can stop worrying about them.
  • Make notes on everything you need to get done. Until I got here, I’d never had a planner, or used the calendar app on my phone. Now, I use both. I schedule obsessively.
  • If things are already overwhelming, get a handle on it before you take on more. If you feel like you’re completely swamped, communicate. If you’re behind on your grading, or struggling with an assignment, talk to the professor you TA for, or your course instructor.

Problems with time management take away from how much rewarding and enjoyable graduate school really is, exhausting as it might be. And it’s okay not to have things completely under control from the beginning: we’re all learning as we go along.

Mastering Your Time

Written by Rachael Bonoan, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

Rachael Bonoan Mastering Your Time blog picOne of the hardest things about my transition into graduate school was becoming the Master of my own time. As an undergraduate at UMass Dartmouth, I took more credits than were necessary (I am a biology nerd and wanted to take as many upper level biology classes as I could), I was the president of two on-campus clubs, I did research on zebra finches, and I worked 20-30 hours a week (off campus) as a pharmacy technician. I had syllabuses, meeting schedules, a set research schedule, and a work schedule. Homework and studying got done whenever there was a spare moment. (Most often, this was at my favorite coffee shop near campus.) I was not the Master of my own time.

When I first arrived in graduate school, my advisor told me to take a couple weeks to read everything I could about my topic of interest (honey bee health and nutrition!). Easy, right? Not for me. As an undergrad, two of my closest friends were in most of my classes; studying and homework happened in a group. Sitting in a library, reading by myself, was HARD. I sat in the library reading for what seemed like hours, only to look up and find only minutes had passed. I am in the sciences to discuss ideas and collaborate with people, not to shut myself out and read (though I do understand this is sometimes necessary). That first year, I figured out two ways to make my days spent reading bearable and productive.

First, I needed a good playlist. I tried Spotify and Pandora, but I quickly got bored (and there were too many ads if you didn’t pay). Then, I discovered Songza—now Google Play music. What I love about Google Play is that you pick your playlist based on activity and/or mood–and there aren’t a bunch of ads! This allowed me to discover playlists I would have never imagined, like “Relaxing Film Scores” for getting through a dense paper.

Second, I needed a change of scenery. Sitting in the library all day wasn’t doing it. I scheduled blocks of time to read, followed by short breaks to walk and find somewhere else to read. While studying for my qualifying exam, I went to nearly every coffee shop within a three-mile radius of campus.

Regarding planning blocks for reading, and breaks for walking, I needed a planner. I have tried a few different types of planners; the one that works best for me is the Passion Planner. The Passion Planner breaks down each day into half-hour increments—allowing for some serious scheduling and time management. I have also discovered some amazing erasable pens that allow me to color-code and move things around in my planner without it getting messy (I’m a bit type-A like that).

The Passion Planner also has a space to create a prioritized “work” to-do list as well as a “personal” to-do list (can’t forget to buy groceries and do laundry) each week. Every Monday morning, I sit down with my Passion Planner and erasable pens, and plan out my week. My plan often changes as the week goes on and things come up (hence, the erasable pens). The prioritized list helps me decide what can be pushed off and what needs to get done (for example, writing this blog post was in the “top priority” section of this week’s to-do list).

This is what works for me—it won’t work for everyone. If you are having trouble finding your own style of time management, there are people that can help you! The Academic Resource Center at Tufts actually has Time Management Consultants that will sit down with you and help you work out a personalized time management strategy! The Graduate School of Arts & Sciences also puts on a time management workshop (this is where I discovered the Passion Planner) that is a bit of a survey of various strategies.

One last tip that I learned at the time management workshop that I think everyone can benefit from—no matter their work style—take effective breaks. Take a coffee break, a snack break, an exercise break, a power nap break, a coloring break. Do whatever it is you need to do to keep your mind and body fueled. You will be a lot more productive!

I like to take a break by taking a walk to the Rez (a student-run coffee shop in the Campus Center) for some caffeination and a treat (they have delicious muffins). If the weather’s nice, I also enjoy sitting on the Tisch Library Roof where there is a beautiful view of the city and fresh air. With the beautiful city lights at night, the Library Roof makes a great place to clear your mind day or night (grad school can sometimes mean late nights in the lab)!