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Have you seen those cool “life hack” tips scrolling across your laptop? If so, how about some life hacks for online graduate students? Would they be helpful to you? Yes, please! Read on for some excellent suggestions!
Learning is a lifelong process that often requires cultivating and nurturing. Many professionals do not stop gaining new knowledge and skills once they graduate and start earning their chosen careers. Continuing education has become a norm in the past few decades, with working adults electing to expand their knowledge base, supplement their experience, and climb higher to the ladder of success.
Between 2011 and 2018, there was a staggering leap in the number of students in graduate and professional school, with 307,000 in 2011 and 4million in 2018. One of the reasons for the upward trend must be the workforce’s existing competition and the need for higher compensation vis-à-vis the rising cost of living. To stand out, one must keep an edge over competitors. You can do this by enhancing your portfolio and qualifications through advanced degrees.
Employers value further education and experience from their workforce. Some say that 27% of employers require a master’s degree for roles originally fulfilled by undergraduate degree holders.
The spike in graduate school enrollments gave way to expanding traditional brick-and-mortar institutions to unconventional learning formats. This includes embracing the growing trend of online learning.
Online graduate education poses various benefits, including the flexibility of schedules offered by asynchronous learning formats and the convenience of working through the coursework anywhere. Working professionals will be able to organize their classes to suit their demanding work schedules. This means they can pursue their advanced degrees without having to sacrifice their budding career.
Challenges Faced by Graduate Students
Graduate students have unique needs, often brought about by their transition from an undergraduate level to the graduate and professional level, where they need to deal with different sets of expectations and responsibilities. Online graduate students undergo the same sets of challenges as their conventional counterparts.
Perhaps, this is the ultimate challenge for many students in online grad school. Most of them are working professionals with additional obligations on top of their pursuit of advanced education. They must be busy juggling their careers and their studies that it can be a challenge to manage their time between conflicting schedules.
Many graduate students strive to survive graduate school with discipline and motivation. But the latter is often lacking, forcing them to put off work that they need to do in favor of less important tasks. In the process, they could waste a lot of precious time.
Lack of Support
Support often comes from family and friends, and of course, supervisors and professors. However, the reality is not often peachy for most graduate students. They go through tremendous pressure from their surroundings, and the lack of support can exacerbate the problem. This can affect their academic performance.
Stress Over Uncertainty
The biggest pressure on graduate students often comes from the uncertainty of whether or not they can graduate and what waits out there if they do. This could be akin to dark clouds hanging over their heads, which can dampen their enthusiasm for learning and graduating.
Of course, challenges are inevitable. Graduate school is, after all, far more rigorous and difficult than undergraduate education. That is why we’ve gathered a comprehensive list of hacks that can help you navigate your way through graduate school with more confidence, ease, and success.
50 Life Hacks for Online Graduate Students
Tips for Time Management
1. Develop a Long-Term Plan
Managing your time can be difficult, especially when you are up against an overwhelming amount of coursework and responsibilities in grad school. But if you want to be effective in allocating your time and making the most out of them, you need to start developing and planning a long-term plan.
You must look at the bigger picture when creating a long-term plan that can encompass your whole graduate school journey. Of course, this means you have to set your goals. Do you want to graduate on time? Would you consider accelerating your higher degree completion? Knowing what you want to achieve and how to achieve it will help you plan out a concrete strategy.
Choose the term and months that will signal huge gains for you. Let’s say your semester starts in January and ends in May. You can highlight them in your calendar to serve as a guide to your overarching schedule plan. If you plan to graduate in a certain month of the year, you can underline this in your calendar so you can keep your eye on the goal.
2. Map Out a Workable Schedule
Since you have set out your long-term plan, it’s now time to work out the finer details. You may do this a week before the beginning of the semester when you are still relaxed enough to think things through. You can start by tracking your given schedules and due dates, including all the important elements, from your classes, work hours (if you are employed), study blocks, and study breaks.
On top of that, you can create a calendar that reflects specific dates on exams, projects, assignments, and other coursework requirements as they come. You will know how much time you have left between your deadlines. It will also serve as your reminder and guide on how you can manage your everyday routine. You can adjust the dates as necessary and update them along the way.
3. Plan Your Daily Routine
This might sound like too much, and it can be quite overwhelming for some, but creating a daily schedule can help you organize and manage your grad school time better. You are taking one day at a time, so what is the better way of doing so than planning out a daily routine? Start by setting your alarm morning and night alarm at the same time every day. This will establish your body clock and will train you to wake up and get up on schedule.
Your daily schedule can look like this:
- 4:30 AM – First alarm. You are entitled to give it a one-time snooze to give your body time to adjust.
- 4: 45 AM – Wake up and meditate.
- 5:15 AM – Get yourself coffee and read the morning paper.
- 5:30 AM – Sit down at your desk and prepare your day by checking your class schedule.
4. Make Smart To-Do Lists
Grad students are often prone to underestimating the time it takes to complete a task. You can avoid this pitfall by writing down every task you need to do for a certain period. And just to be more prepared, you can allocate an estimated time that it will take for you to finish each task on the list. But make sure to be generous about it. Give yourself an allowance to avoid cramming a complicated assignment in a short period.
Know how to spread out your items on the list. If you have 25 tasks for the day, likely, you will not be able to accomplish them in one day. Learn which ones need prioritizing and focus your energy on them.
In this day and age, it’s so easy to look for apps that will help you organize your daily tasks. Todoist, for example, is one of the best to-do list apps that will work across all your devices and help you track your productivity and organize your life. The app has a free version that works very well, although the premium version would be your perfect choice.
5. Break Down Big Tasks into Smaller Ones
Complex coursework often takes time to complete. It would be quite a challenge to write a 25-page research paper, but if you pace it out by resolving writing two pages a day, you would not feel overwhelmed. Taking this approach with your big tasks can help you stay on track without the added pressure of a looming deadline.
Write down one big task along with the deadline, then decide how many smaller steps you can take to get it done. You can do this with various assignments and paperwork. Reading materials can be broken down into chapters and pages. Long essays can be divided into different steps in the process, from research and outline creation to the writing proper.
You will also avoid putting off working on a task simply because it is too overwhelming to think about.
6. Know Your Peak Hours
Do you know the time of the day when you feel the most alert? Use that time to your advantage by completing as many of your deliverables as you can. You might want to finish the paper you are about to submit the next day or tick off the assignment that is due the week after. However, you use it, make sure that it is spent well.
The same could be said about your downtime. There might be days or hours in the day when you do not feel like doing anything. Instead of letting frustration take over, use this time instead to do something you love outside of academic work. It can be going online to check on your family or friends. You can read a chapter of your current book on the list. This way, you would not feel like you are depriving yourself of leisure time.
It also helps to take advantage of some of today’s best time tracking apps. Some of these include:
- Toggl Track (a free time tracking app)
- Harvest (for tracking hours and expenses in teams)
- TrackingTime (for visualizing time differently)
- ATracker (for a completely customizable setup)
- Rescuetime (for reducing distractions)
7. Seek the Help of Digital Tools
Modern technology makes life easier. If you are an online graduate student who needs to juggle work, personal demands, and academic pursuits, then using a digital tool or app to manage your time more effectively is a good idea.
One example is Trello, a platform for managing projects. You can make individual projects for different categories and organize them by creating subtasks under each project. You can then assign specific steps that you need for every task. This tool helps you break down one big task into small, more manageable ones.
Another helpful project management app is Basecamp. The app allows you to easily organize your files and projects, and acts as the central hub for everything that needs to get organized: notes, to-do lists, files, events, and so much more. It comes with a 30-day trial period. After the trial, the plan costs $99 per month.
For those who aren’t tech-savvy, Asana is a good option. This is a relatively easy task management app that anyone—even the non-computer geeks, can use to manage their projects. This app is very simple but very smart, thanks to its numerous integrations. Teams with less than 15 members can avail of the free version, while those with more than that can choose a plan at $10.99 per month.
GanttPRO is another powerful project management app that is simple and what many consider as the alternative to Microsoft Project. As its name implies, the app is based on Gantt charts that allow you to break big projects into smaller tasks on a visually appealing timeline. You can also work with resources and their workloads, collaborate with teams, log in your times, and do other project-related activities. Paid pricing of the app will depend on what you need from it, although there is a 14-day free trial period.
8. Avoid Biting More than You Can Chew
You can only have so many hours in a day. The demands from the different aspects of your life mean that you can sometimes have too much on your plate. The trick is to use your time wisely, but how can you achieve this if you tend to over-commit yourself? When you are asked to accomplish something, consider whether or not it can work around your schedule. Learning how to say no can help you avoid taxing yourself and conserve your energy for more pressing matters.
9. Track and Audit Your Time
This is for those who are prone to distractions. It can be easy to lose track of your time, and you will end up asking where the hours of your day went to. Just like money, however, it helps track and audit your time to know where you need to cut back from. You might be spending too much time scrolling through social media, or you might easily get distracted by YouTube videos.
If you know you are devoting so much time to unnecessary activities, you can start finding ways to rectify them. Awareness is the key to curbing bad habits and getting better control of your precious time.
10. Establish Bright Lines
Establishing bright lines is the best solution to a lack of self-control. Many are struggling against controlling behaviors within their life. This is also applicable to studying! As a graduate student, you are often faced with piles of assignments and coursework requirements that can be daunting. But by defining a standard rule over something as simple as starting your reading materials at a specific time of the day, you will be able to steer clear from procrastination.
You need to honor your schedule as if it is a matter of life and death. It only takes a good heft of self-discipline.
Tips for Procrastination and Productivity
11. Acknowledge that You Procrastinate
Often confused with laziness, procrastination is more common to everyone than you think. If you felt like doing something else instead of the task you should be doing, you procrastinate. You must recognize procrastination from the get-go so you will know how to deal with it. It could be that you are putting off an item from your to-do list in favor of low-priority tasks, even when you know it should not be the case.
You are also prone to waiting for the right mood or the right time to tackle crucial tasks like starting your research paper. All of this re-prioritizing can add up and become a burden later on. Acknowledging that you are procrastinating can re-align your focus and help you find effective ways to avoid it.
How do you avoid procrastination?
Get Organized. There are so many college students who procrastinate because they failed to set a plan on how to complete their tasks. You can complete your tasks easily without working around at the last minute just be getting organized. Invest in a good planner. Keep track of your tasks, your projects, or assignments and their corresponding dates. When you are organized, you get to have a more orderly ‘timeline’, resulting in a better framework within which you can work.
Keep Distractions Away. You can avoid procrastination if you eliminate distractions. When distractions are limited, you are like to complete all the things you need to get done. Go to a quiet place, shut off your cellphones and gadgets, indulge in classical music to finish your tasks on time.
Know How to Prioritize. Prioritizing your tasks and work is one effective way to keep away from procrastination. Ideally, create a list each week of the tasks that need to get done. Work on the most time-sensitive and critical assignments first, then gradually work your way down your list. The harder assignments should be completed first so you can easily manage the remaining ones.
Set Realistic Goals. Maybe one of the reasons why you opt to procrastinate is because you feel like all the tasks are very overwhelming. But did you know that you can start a project easily if you establish simple, realistic, and reachable goals? For example, don’t say “I will study Physics later”, rather, say “I will study chapter three tonight”. This will make your goals more realistic and attainable and less intimidating.
Set Deadlines. Have you noticed how saying “I’ll complete my assignments later or eventually” tend to become a habit over time? This attitude is very common among students. It is very crucial to set a specific timeline for when your projects should be completed. The goal is to get them done at least two days ahead of time. That way, when something unexpected happens, you still have extra time for changes.
Find Time to Take a Break. Despite your busy schedules in college, it’s okay to take a break once in a good while. In the middle of a busy study time, take a 15-minute break. Take a walk, grab some coffee, listen to good music or anything that will take your mind off your tasks and give you time to relax. A simple 15-minute break can help reduce stress, increase focus, and give you better information retention.
Reward Yourself. A reward for yourself will give you that ‘push’ to complete a task and avoid procrastinating. For instance, after you complete an assignment or study for a long exam, give yourself a reward. As simple as “I should treat myself to two episodes of my favorite series after I complete my assignments”, can significantly boost your morale to keep going.
12. Work Out the Whys
Before you can truly deal with procrastination, you must know why you are doing it. Is the high-priority task boring or unpleasant? Are you feeling uninspired to do a particular assignment at the moment? Do you fear the looming deadline? Knowing the root cause of your procrastinating ways can help you face your fears and find better solutions.
13. Stay Away from Multi-Tasking
Focus is the key to beating procrastination. However, if you are dealing with a dozen things all at once, it will be hard to concentrate on the task at hand. Multi-tasking can overwhelm your resolve and tempt you to put off something important simply because you are dealing with little tasks that make you feel productive. It could be reading your emails several times when you meant to reply to one important message from your instructor.
You might be starting to write your paper, but you went off to make coffee instead. You may be trying to listen to your lecture while researching your paper. Before you know it, you become so engrossed with your current task that you forget your priorities.
14. Learn the Art of Prioritization
Speaking of priorities, it is important to know the order of your most urgent tasks. Yes, you have a lot on your plate, but not everything is due the next day. You should know which one warrants more attention. More urgent tasks must be prioritized, so you will make sure to beat deadlines.
One benefit of online learning is having all your tasks planned out for you, from assignments and exams to other academic responsibilities. Learn to identify which ones need to be completed the soonest and prioritize accordingly.
15. Adopt Anti-Procrastination Strategies
Procrastination is inevitable, but it can be managed. You can do this by putting strategies in place that will help you avoid procrastinating. This includes creating your to-do lists, scheduling and planning your big projects, and tackling your most difficult tasks at your peak times.
One trick that helps in dealing with procrastination is to start with small and quick tasks first. This will give you small wins, which, in turn, can impart a sense of accomplishment on your part. It will help make you feel motivated as you work towards bigger goals.
16. Try the 5-Minute Miracle
One technique that most people use when struggling against procrastination is the 5-minute miracle. This compels you to think of a small, manageable action that you can accomplish in 5 minutes. It can be reading just one page from your materials or editing a page from the research paper you had written last night. This action, however small, can help move your bigger task forward. You can set a timer for 5 minutes and make sure to work on the task within that period. All you need is five minutes to make a difference.
17. Do a Power Hour
Our brains can be overworked. Knowing how to harness its optimal performance can be used to your utmost advantage. This is where the Power Hour comes in. You try to do away with disruptions by devoting chunks of time to the tasks at hand. Try to work on a task for a twenty-minute interval. After this period, you can take a short break to rest your mind. Here, the trick is to balance focused time with relaxation to avoid straining your brain and make the most of its peaks.
18. Unplug and Stay Offline
Distraction is one of the culprits when it comes to procrastination. You need to concentrate on accomplishing an assignment. But if your phone lights up with notifications now and then, you will find it hard to focus on your current task. You might be tempted to check your email for the nth time in the morning.
To avoid this, consider putting your phone on flight mode or stay offline while trying to finish a task. But since you are an online grad student, it could be easier said than done. The next best thing to do is to set aside time that you can devote to academic-related stuff. Responding to personal messages and emails can wait until later.
19. Pick Your Procrastination Power Song
Music can be distracting for some but if you are the type who can work fine with background noise, then picking a power song to beat procrastination is a good idea. Choose a song that can get you energized whenever you feel like putting off doing a priority task. This will trigger your brain to stick to the goal and harness your focus on the task at hand. The song will likely condition your brain to follow through with your mission.
20. Find an Accountability Partner
It is easy to forget about your priorities when you are only accountable to yourself. After all, who will make you answerable to every missed deadline? But if you tell a close friend or family member about your goals and current tasks, there will be someone to remind you when you are starting to slough it off. It is even better if it is someone in online graduate school, too, because they will more likely understand your struggles.
It will be easier to keep each other in check when you are letting distractions get in the way of completing your research paper.
Tips for Motivation
21. Make an Effort to Be Involved
Being motivated is often a mindset that you need to cultivate. One way to do this is by getting involved in your goals and objectives, whether it is attending your online classes with diligence or working on your coursework with consistency. Show your enthusiasm in your lectures by asking the right questions and seeking answers.
Make use of online discussion boards to exchange ideas with your classmates. If you have lingering questions, emailing your professor can be of great help. This willingness to be present and involved can keep you motivated throughout your graduate school journey.
22. Offer Yourself Rewards for Your Hard Work
Do you know what can keep you going even when things get tough? Incentives. Take time to reward yourself after every hard work. Say, for example, you are itching to watch your favorite Netflix show’s latest episode, but you have paperwork to finish. Why not consider it as a reward to motivate yourself? You will find it easier to finish your tasks when you know there is a promising reward waiting for you once you accomplish them.
You can offer yourself treats and snacks as you study for your exams. You can also indulge in your hobbies after each study break to give you time to catch your breath and relax your brain. Work these incentives around your academic routine to get you going.
23. Spice Up Study Time with a Little Creativity
Monotony is a serious challenge when you are doing academic work. Reading materials can be tedious to go through, and writing papers can be dreary eventually. Why not spice it up a bit by incorporating your creative spirit into your study time? If you are tired of looking at words, why not turn your study coverage into a mind map? Organize and visualize your notes so you will easily digest them. You can create mind maps with your hands, or you can turn to special programs on your computer. Doing this will also help you retain more information.
24. Seek Support from Loved Ones
Studying alone can be mundane in the long run. But if you have a support group who cheers you every time the going gets tough, then tedious coursework could be a breeze. Your support group can include your family, classmates, friends, and even your professors. This will ensure that you have someone to turn to when you need a pep talk. They can give you study tips and encourage you to take breaks and have some fun, too. Grad school is a difficult journey, so getting the emotional and moral support you need can motivate you to study harder and do better.
25. Make Use of Your Senses
They say listening to music potentially improves productivity and cognitive function, especially when performing repetitive tasks. Music can engage the brain’s areas where attention span and memory retention are controlled. You may choose a perfect study playlist, one that motivates you to see through your tasks until the very end. Eventually, you will be able to associate good study habits with emotionally stimulating music. It can alter your mood and inspire you to keep going.
Others find it beneficial when scents surround them while they study. Scented candles giving off various fragrances like lavender, cinnamon, lemon, and rosemary can help you focus better, which, in turn, can lead to better memory. Making use of your senses can be a great way to help you become more productive and motivated.
26. Change Up Your Usual Scenery
Your study environment can make a lot of difference to your mindset. You might be partial to total quiet and bright spaces where you can devote your full concentration to your readings. Or you could be more at home with some study music and maybe some snacks and coffee. But the usual can be too much sometimes, so you might want to jazz it up by changing your scenery. Switch your study area into the west window so you can have a full view of the sunset during late afternoons.
Tired of sitting down in front of your computer for hours on end? Try standing up or bringing your laptop to your comfy couch from time to time. Changing your usual positions when you study and work on your course requirements can enhance your focus and motivation.
27. Avoid the Motivation Killers
There are instances where you just lose your sense of motivation to do something that you need to get done. It might not be obvious enough, but there are motivation killers at work that must be kept at bay. One of these is following a schedule that does not suit you.
You might be used to working and studying at night, but you choose to put your study time in the morning, and it does not work for you. You can take full advantage of your asynchronous online classes by making your schedule as flexible as possible. If you need to go through your reading materials at night because your brain is most active, then make sure to do so.
Other motivation killers are putting too many details on your to-do list. Instead of feeling motivated, you feel overwhelmed and lose focus. Working without breaks in between can also sap your enthusiasm. It can drain your energy and hamper your memory retention.
Grading pitfall is one motivation killer that can further make a struggling student feel helpless. Many students attest how frustrating it is to feel like their efforts don’t matter, despite them doing their best. By grading pitfall, what does this actually mean?
- No opportunities to re-submit or revise. Did you know? Many students don’t gripe for those extra credit chances during finals week just to boost their grades in the end. They just want chances to revise their essays, assignments, or tests. They wish to have a chance to turn things in late—even with penalties.
28. Create a Vision Board
A visualization is a powerful tool. When you have visualized what you want to happen, it is easier to get on the how. Your visual board could be a physical one, filled with quotes and photos of your dreams and ideas of success, or you can also create a virtual one. Sites like Pinterest are a good start if you are looking for inspiration.
Put all the things you would want to achieve on your vision board and place it on display in your study area. You can take a look at it every time you need motivation, reminding you of the goals that you are after. It will boost your confidence as you envisage the reality of your dreams.
But why should you create a visual board? What are the benefits?
A. It creates an emotional connection to push you. This is particularly better if your picture board is more than just glossy photos. Ideally, make it also about connecting your emotions with your vision and its overall sensory experience. What smells, sights, and sounds are coined with a specific aspect of your goals? What emotions? Joy, relief, wonder?
B. It makes your dream real in your mind so you will start to believe that it’s possible. When you create something more concrete and precise in mind, this gives you that real and attainable feeling. You will start believing that indeed, you can really make your goals happen. This is one of the most powerful effects of having a vision board. No matter how you doubt yourself, no matter what you believe about yourself, your vision board correctly done will gradually start to transform your belief system into something that is more certain, confident, and motivated.
C. It gives you a clearer perspective of what you want because it will push you to put something down. What if you don’t have your ultimate dream in mind yet–that burning desire and passion to achieve what you really want? What if you just haven’t figured it out? If you have some ideas, you can jot them down on your board.
As you reflect on your vision board, you might be surprised at how certain things will just pull on you. Then you start to notice those vague ideas that you really don’t care about at all. Suddenly, you now have a perspective.
29. Try to Do Some Self-Reflections
Taking a step back from your hectic study schedule and reflecting on your study habits can help you strategize more effectively. Doing this allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses in each of your classes. Do you find particular study materials more difficult than the others? Are there classes that are extra challenging for you?
Knowing all of these will let you determine where you need to put in more effort and how you can sustain it until the end of the course. No matter what you find, just be sure not to be hard on yourself. Your reflections should extend to giving yourself allowances for your shortcomings and finding a middle ground between your capacities and limitations.
30. Give Yourself Room for Failure
As mentioned before, do not be too hard on yourself. Nobody is perfect, cliché as it may sound. Graduate school is on another level, and getting straight A’s is not as easy as when you were still an undergraduate student. While it is great to get a high GPA, being in grad school is so much more than your academic performance. It is an avenue that trains you to be better at your future career. Some employers do not put that much emphasis on your grades. They tend to value your graduate school experience.
Keep in mind that failures can happen, and there is still a chance to do better. Having this mindset will nurture your sense of motivation. You would not easily give up in the face of poor performance. Instead, you will draw inspiration from it to do your best in the next challenge, whether it is a particularly difficult assignment or a looming exam.
Tips for Managing Stress
31. Take Regular Study Breaks
Online learning can be just as stressful as face-to-face classes. You have the same coursework and requirements as physical classes. When you feel like stress is too much, it is always a good idea to take a step back and breathe. Studying for hours on end and sitting in front of your computer can be draining. To remedy this, you should get up and stretch by taking a short walk for a much-needed change of scenery.
It will rest your eyes from too much screen time and allow you to get some fresh air and good blood circulation. You can also meet your friends over coffee or get on the phone with your mom. Talking to them will temporarily take your mind off your rigorous tasks, even for just a few minutes, and improve your mood.
32. Organize Your Academic and Personal Life
Managing your stress can be as simple as being more organized. Your stress might stem from an overwhelming workload and everyday commitments. You can start by decluttering and organizing your desk to keep your mind clutter-free. A neat study pace can improve your mood and mindset.
Your laptop can use some decluttering, too. Go through your files and categorize them by folders. That way, it will be easier to find anything that you need when the time arises. Just because you can do your coursework anytime and anywhere does not mean you have to let go of control. Flexibility should be coupled with self-discipline and organizational skills. It will help you avoid the added stress of a disorganized life.
33. Eat Well and Healthy
Eating healthily does not only help you maintain physical well-being. It can also do wonders for your mental health. A healthy diet can lessen the negative effects of stress by strengthening your immune system and reducing blood pressure. It will be easier for you to handle stress if you are eating healthy.
While it is easier said than done, what with your hectic schedule and hefty workload. It can be difficult for you to take the time to prepare your meals in between your online classes, reading materials, and research requirements. However, it can be manageable with a little compromise and lots of commitment.
One of the ways you can maintain a healthy diet is by avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcohol. Mealtimes should be kept relaxed. You should avoid skipping meals or eating on the run. You should also prevent yourself from stress eating, especially comfort food with too much sugar and carbs. Try instead to eat healthy comfort foods like oatmeal, fruit, and dark chocolate. They are known to boost serotonin and reduce stress levels.
34. Try to Find Time for Exercise
It can be challenging even with a flexible online schedule, but maintaining a good exercise habit can help you manage stress. Many health professionals recommend exercise to cope with stress. Not only does it improve your physical condition and help you fight diseases, but it is also a good way to maintain mental fitness, reduce fatigue, and improve alertness and concentration. You do not need to go through a complex exercise routine.
A short bike ride, brisk walk, or a dance routine can do the trick. If you still cannot find the time to do those activities, you can opt for manageable physical exercises in the form of taking the stairs instead of elevators. Make sure that the activity you are undertaking is something that you genuinely enjoy. It also gives you time away from your computer screen, which is always a good thing.
35. Get Enough Sleep Everyday
The value of getting the right amount of sleep cannot be overstated! Online learning might be flexible, but dedicating a regular time for sleeping and resting can go a long way in helping you manage stress. If you are sleep-deprived, you will find it difficult to concentrate and tackle your tasks at hand.
You will find yourself getting impatient about getting things done, which in turn can increase your stress levels. Making sure you are getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night can improve your disposition, give you more energy, and help you make better decisions. You will also have more patience and motivation as you work through your course requirements.
Some of the ways you can get better sleep are going offline and putting down your devices before bed. You should turn off all notifications so you would not be disturbed while sleeping. Committing to going to bed simultaneously every night can reinforce a good habit that can easily fall into a routine.
36. Seek Help If You Need It
Sometimes your stress levels could be too overwhelming that nothing you do on your own can help you feel better. This is often compounded by external and internal pressures brought about by expectations of performing at a high level academically. This might be a sign that you need to talk to a professional. Check with your online school if they offer counseling services to their students.
Most universities are equipped with advisors and coaches who help their online students handle academic pressures. Consider asking for help from counselors and therapists. There are available telepsychology services online that you can take advantage of, allowing you to fit an appointment around your busy schedule. They can help you identify your stressors and provide you with coping mechanisms to manage your stress effectively.
37. Make Self-Care a Priority
Self-care might go to the bottom of your priorities as you juggle your responsibilities from the different aspects of your life. Academic pressure can play a huge role in stressing you out, too. Despite your academic requirements, you should still find time to prioritize self-care by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Take the time to enjoy the things you love, whether indulging in a skincare routine before you go to bed or reading a chapter of a book each day. It is also a part of skincare to be aware of your stress levels. When you are overwhelmed, do not hesitate to take a breather. Get ample “me” time so you can recuperate and come back stronger, ready to take on your pile of tasks.
38. Maintain a Healthy Social Life
Just because you are swimming in coursework does not mean you should neglect one aspect of your life that can contribute to your well-being. Maintaining a healthy social life is a must, especially when taking online classes, as it lessens physical interactions and tempts you to immerse in academic pursuits fully. Take some time off for the week to meet with your family and friends, even if it is something as simple as having conversations over coffee.
If meeting in person cannot be managed, you can always keep in touch with them through social media and phone calls. Remember not to isolate yourself when pursuing your online graduate degree. Constant communication with your loved ones can do a lot in alleviating stress.
39. Celebrate Your Milestones
It can be easy to pressure yourself on your goal of performing academically. Sometimes you might feel like you are not doing enough. This can stress you out unnecessarily, contributing to anxiety and even depression. To counter this, you must keep in mind that even your small accomplishments like finishing a chapter of your reading material for the day are worth celebrating. Be thankful for managing to get a portion of your tasks done.
Acknowledge that you did well and take the time to reward yourself. You should try to shift your focus on the positive as opposed to things that went wrong. Having this kind of mindset can help you boost your mental strength, enhance your self-esteem, and allow you to get better sleep at night.
40. Be Mindful of Your Physical and Mental Well-being
Your physical and mental well-being go hand in hand. Making sure that you are living healthy can do a lot in ensuring a good mental state. Be aware of the changes in your body. Stress can bring various symptoms, including sleep trouble, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, poor concentration, and emotional distress. Gauge how you are feeling, both physically and mentally. All of these negative symptoms can affect your concentration and academic performance.
When you recognize the signs, make sure to do something about rectifying them. You might need to stop putting pressure on yourself, eat healthy, sleep better, and be kinder to yourself. There are instances when you need to take a step back from social media to avoid wasting your time and jeopardizing your productivity. Being mindful of your well-being can lessen your stress.
Tips for Academic Performance
41. Work Hard and Smart
Graduate school requires a special kind of skill – being able to work hard and smart. You are often expected to push for your highest potential. It is not out of the ordinary to find yourself working for hours in a day trying to complete your reading assignments. But while working hard is already a given, it is also important that you learn how to work smart. When reading, keep a goal in mind. What can you take from the text? How can it help you derive benefits from the amount of time you spent reading it? You should be able to digest and understand the information.
Some people do this by highlighting and annotating their reading materials. For your digital reading requirements, you will be able to highlight texts and passages that you deem important, training your mind to focus on them and retain the significant parts as you go.
42. Practice Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is a skill that is imperative to every graduate student. You are entering graduate school not only to enhance your knowledge and gain new skills. You must also be able to discern the materials and lectures presented to you, ask probing questions when necessary, and give educated judgment calls. Various points of view are important for independent learning.
Ensure that you are employing your critical thinking skills when presented with a topic. This allows you to create rational and sensible arguments, applying creative solutions to problems. It is the mark of an excellent graduate student to analyze, interpret, evaluate, infer, and explain information in decision-making and problem-solving. This skill is a tremendous help for your research work and thesis.
43. Embody a Clear Sense of Purpose
Pursuing a graduate degree can stem from a variety of reasons. While this is the case, it is still important that you have a clear sense of purpose. You should know what you want to get out of graduate school. Maybe you aim to acquire additional knowledge and skills for your dream job promotion. It could be that you want to shift to a different career field.
No matter what your reason is, remember to keep this purpose in mind! This will help you strategize and set out ways to achieve your graduate school goals. It can also motivate you along the way as you are reminded of what you are trying to achieve. Your sense of purpose will guide you to the kind of education you will receive.
44. Enhance Research and Writing Skills
Graduate students are expected to level up in all their course requirements. Accomplishing polished assignments or impeccable paperwork is the norm! After all, most graduate degrees require thesis writing. Keep in mind that you are training to be experts in the field of your choice. Your writing should be able to convey this expertise. Learn how to use direct and confident or authoritative language, fostering a sense of credibility to anyone who reads your writing. You should make sure you are presenting your arguments with coherence.
Transitions and sentence structures could be your focus. You should also ensure that your writing has clarity. The same can be said about your research skills. Your level of discernment should improve in a way that allows you to get to the bottom of the problem and find resources that can support your argument. Constant practice is the key to mastering these skills. Take every requirement as an opportunity to improve your writing and research ability.
45. Acquire a Genuine Thirst for Learning
Learning can take getting used to, but it should be something that you embody if you are in graduate school. It is not enough that you want to learn. There should be a genuine effort on your part to love and enjoy the process. If you have a passion for learning, everything else becomes easier. You are often curious about the process, so you make a conscious effort to learn more, often going beyond what is being fed to you.
You are the one who finds a way to discover more about certain topics, employing your critical thinking skills along the way. If you have a thirst for learning, you already have the edge over your fellow students who are simply interested.
46. Ensure Originality of Ideas
Research and thesis writing is at the forefront of most graduate degrees. This means that you are expected to create an independent piece, whether for a culminating project or dissertation. It often starts with a research question that is unique and can stand out from the others. This leads to the contribution of a new concept to your field of study. To do this, you must be original with your ideas. It requires thinking out of the box and developing a research idea that is different from everyone else.
47. Build a Strong Networking Base
Graduate schools provide opportunities for you to meet the best and brightest in your field. From your professors and mentors to classmates, schoolmates, and alumni, everyone you meet can be a part of your network. Make sure that provides opportunities for you to meet the best and brightest in your field.
From your professors and mentors to classmates, schoolmates, and alumni, everyone you meet can be a part of your network. Ensure that you maintain contact with them as they can be of great help when looking for recommendations for a job after completing your graduate degree. As early as possible, cultivate these relationships as they will come in handy in time.
48. Take Good Notes and Listen Actively
Online learning can be challenging, but it requires the same expectations from students. Lectures may be delivered through a different format, but you are still expected to listen actively and take good notes as necessary. Remembering what you read and heard is a great skill. However, not everything can be committed to memory. That is why you need to write down everything that you deem essential.
Be sure to summarize the important information in your own words to easily absorb and digest, allowing you to retain them better. Include the main points and supporting details. Since it is impossible to write down everything, it is ideal to use shorthand and keywords strategies.
49. Pick a Good Mentor
A good mentor is vital in your graduate school journey. They are often the ones who can help you achieve your goals and become who you want to be. An ideal mentor should be passionate about areas of your interest. They should be able to help you understand your field and acquire the right kind of knowledge.
Mentors are also expected to keep you on the right track by steering you in the direction of your goals. They can lend a hand when trying to publish a paper, helping you through the process. Some of those you can consider as a mentor include your professors, advisors, and even someone outside of academia who is part of your field of interest.
50. Find Opportunities for Training and Improvement
Research opportunities are a great way to train and improve your skills and expertise. This can give you access to academic professionals and materials. Some schools offer online workshops and seminars for academic, career, professional, and personal development.
Take advantage of these opportunities for your training and improvement to supplement your academic training by providing you with specific skill-building opportunities. Some of these include oral presentation, budgeting, nonacademic career development, and many more.
How can you avoid graduate school burnout?
At some point during your grad school journey, you may feel burnout. Although you cannot find this term in any medical dictionary, this is a very common problem that affects most grad school students. Some of the more prominent signs of burnout include anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, insomnia, and for others, even that feeling to drop out of school.
For any grad school student, stress is normal. But if you learn how to manage your stress, you can easily regain your passion and focus for your work. So how do you avoid getting burned out?
Schedule a break for yourself. Of course, at this point, your schedule is already jam-packed, that’s why you’re stressed, right? However, find time to give yourself some “me” time and just take a break from all your tasks and responsibilities. During your grad school, you practically have everything on your plate—classes, papers, classes, practicums, and the likes. In the end, taking a ‘quick break’ like watching your favorite TV series or browsing the web, can shake off all the pressure that goes with your grad school.
But these ‘breaks’ don’t give you that real feeling of having breaks that can give your body and mind a rest, do they? A scheduled break is your ultimate solution. Play around and discover what works best for you. Maybe a regular yoga class, or a weekend trivia night with your friends, trekking during the weekend, or going to the spa occasionally, can help you regain your motivation and focus.
Surround yourself with the best support network. You can easily cut off from the outside world and feel isolated when you begin to feel so overwhelmed by your graduate school. Therefore it is important that you have a strong and solid support network to help lessen the pressure of a graduate program. You can try to:
- Make a study group for your program
- Befriend your classmates (even if it’s online—you can try to exchange social media accounts)
- Schedule meetings with your advisers and professors
- Talk to your family and friends regularly
- See a therapist if the need calls for it.
Break your bad habits. There are so many reasons why school burnout happens. While you cannot change elements in the program like your class schedules or coursework, you do have control over so many other things. For example, you can take full control of how you eat well, have exercise, and get enough sleep. These things, when properly managed, can make your grad school experience a breeze.
Remember those all-nights and preservative-packed meals like ramen? Or that time when you had to gulp bottles after bottles of Red Bull just to study all night? These things are not good for your physical and mental health. If you’ve been practicing these, then it’s about high time to break these bad habits.
Set clear boundaries. How do you interpret boundaries? How do you set one with yourself and with your work?
- Turn off your phone, computer, and other gadgets before going to bed.
- Do not reply to emails after a certain time at night
- Do work in coffee shops, libraries, and other public spaces so that your home and personal space will serve as a respite.
- Learn to say NO. If you feel like your responsibilities are overwhelming, it’s okay to say no.
- Relax. Give yourself personal breaks and set a vacation.
Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is avoiding dwelling in the past or future and connecting to the present. When you are drained, you tend to focus and question what went wrong. You will then worry about your future tasks. These are not-so-healthy thoughts that will not do you any good. Practice mindfulness—a way to train your mind to live the present and let go of the past.
Mindfulness comes in different forms. There is meditation, yoga, and healthy breathing techniques. Try to work around what best suits you. You can also find free yoga videos online and even listen to meditation apps like Calm or Headspace.
The choice to go back to school and enroll in a graduate program is a big decision. With so many online graduate degree programs today, you need all the hacks to help you survive to juggle between school and career or personal life.
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