Q: With graduate school comes an additional level of freedom as well as an additional level of self discipline needed to stay on task and finish what must be done. Would you agree? And if so, can you speak to any ideas/techniques/habits that would help with this.
A: Yes, I agree that graduate school demands a high degree of self discipline. All I can say is that it is good training for the real world. I would like to think that one of the reasons I have so much freedom in my job is because of the self discipline I acquired in graduate school. When there is no one around to keep you on task, it is easy to blow things off. Indeed, the need to be internally dedicated to your work is one of the primary weed out mechanisms in graduate school. If you love bacteria cells, molecules, or physical laws so much that you’re willing to forego a real paycheck for five to eight years so that you can study even harder and do even more work than you did in undergraduate school, then you have what it takes to be a doctor. You don’t have to pay money for graduate school, but you do pay with blood, sweat, and tears. In some ways, I think of it like the priesthood. Scientists and engineers are called to graduate school like some men are called to the priesthood. Few are called and even fewer have the courage to answer the call. That is why it is so important to support those who are presently in the process of becoming masters and doctors in science and engineering.
When I was in graduate school, just three years ago, the concept of time management was a big concern for me. I experienced the most stress when my daughter was born. Her birth really tested my ability to deal with the demands of home and work. The first thing I have to say is that the demands of life will never subside. This is how life goes: Get married, have children, graduate, get a job, get promoted, have more kids, go to school plays, go to soccer games, get promoted, get a staff, get a budget, go to twice as many plays, go to soccer games, recitals, more kids, business trips, recruiting trips, family gatherings, plays, teacher meetings, games, shopping, promoted, budget, budget, first dates, graduations. You get the picture. All you will be able to do is adapt to the ever growing demands of life. It will never ever get easier and once you accept that, life is a whole lot of fun. Rather than coping until it stops, you must learn to adapt to the new reality. That is my first piece of advice. Never tolerate or cope. Either act to change or adapt to the new reality.
In order to meet the demands of life, you will need to keep up with new productivity ideas and new technology. Both will help you adapt. One of the best things you can do is regularly read business books and magazines. The business world is constantly trying to find new ways to do more with less. I read Business Week and Business 2.0. Business Week is great for the time conscious manager within. Business 2.0 is a great magazine for entrepreneurs. Perhaps the best productivity book I’ve read is David Allen’s Getting Things Done. He has a really cool system for processing all the work that comes at you and organizing it for action. You can read more about it at www.43folders.com/about. Recently, I got a new software program that allows me to create advanced To-Do lists. Check it out at www.mylifeorganized.com. It also has templates to help you follow the Getting Things Done system. Another system out there is the Printable CEO at www.davidsheah.com. Try to learn as much as possible about as many different methods. Mix and match and use whatever works for you.