Survival Kit for Graduate Students

A survival kit for Graduate students you say?! For some of you, it may be a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, hence:

Coffee does more than Milton can,
to justifie the ways of God to Man.

There’s a variation on that quote from A.D. Houseman, if you know it. For others it may be getting your necessary 10 hugs a day –apparently that’s the number we all need to thrive — and for others still a hearty belly laugh!

I am not one to deprive you so if you want/need all three have at it! The last is a delightful little phrase that I learnt during my time in the great Republic of Texas.

What am I rambling on about you say? I’d thought i’d share some things that are, or should be, in a Graduate Students Survival kit. ** This post contains affiliate links **

  1. The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People–What is your definition of success and what is your strategy to get there? In other words, what are your goals or what do you want to accomplish? Stephen R. Covey’s guide is an oldie but a goodie for thinking about setting up good habits! Even if you don’t agree with his own premises it is helpful for establishing your own definitions of what constitutes success.
  2. Getting Things Done by David Allen– Knowing your goals is one thing, you need to work out a plan and take the steps to reach them. As Mike Kaspari says We all know folks who think big but never finish anything because they can’t seem to get organized.” David Allen’s book is pretty close to the best at helping you develop a mindset of being effective. GTD as it is often known has a very apologetic following. They often describe themselves as evangelical. this makes me somewhat suspicious, but i say take all the good you can get out of it, and leave the obsession to others! You can also take a look at this website – What’s Best Next. It tries to take a non-cultish approach to efficiency/organisation taking the best from a whole bunch of resources
  3. Getting what you came for: Primarily focused on a North American audience, this book spends the first 11 chapters telling you all the reasons you shouldn’t have come to grad school before getting down to tin tacs and telling you how to get out gracefully. I learnt a handful of excellent and useful things and tons of scary statistics (like the average for a humanities PhD from the time you finish your B.A. is 11 years! seriously! and why you shouldn’t be doing a PhD for financial reasons). Not the bible but an excellent book to read and have around.
  4. A Good pen and a decent laptop. Seriously, nothing discourages me more from working than not having a good pen to write with or my laptop being hinky (that’s another texan word). If we are on technology – If you only buy one other gadget, make it an external hard-drive. I mean it. Do it today! you’ll thank me when your computer crashes/you drop your computer or your nephew spills milk all over the keyboard/it gets stolen because you were too cheap to buy a lock for it/insert other horrific loss of data here.
  5. A Sense of Humor: If you need daily input see XKCD or PhD Comics.
  6. Read 31 Things We Wish We Knew Before We Started Graduate School or any of the other posts in the Basics Series. A post that compiles a whole bunch of wisdom from some of my colleagues.
  7. Orientate yourself at your own pace. This may be breakneck or slow and steady. Don’t worry too much about comparing yourself to others. It’ll either freak you out or lead you to feel superior, neither of which is healthy.  Worry about your own worksheet – that was what they told you in kindergarten right?
  8. A Healthy desire to Make Friends. Take time to get to know people. Accept invitations and if you are so inclined invite people over for dinner or out to eat after class.
  9. Mentors – Ask for help and be humble in accepting guidance. This is a harder one to achieve than pretty much everything else on this list. But being mentored and discipled personally and professionally is probably one of the most important things on this list! Keep in touch with that inspirational college professor or high school teacher – that kind of continuity is a rare but wonderful gift.
  10. Sleep – Sleep may soon become an incredibly precious commodity. This Lifehacker piece on how to reboot your sleep cycle offers some helpful tips – though given I too burnt the candle at both ends during my first three years of grad school I know that you may struggle with accepting that his advice is even possible to implement (what was that about waking up on your own again? ha!) But, that doesn’t negate the value of the article or of sleep!

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img_2516Anna Blanch Rabe, founder of Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates, has been working with Social Enterprises, socially-responsible businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations since 2006 to develop and effectively execute strategic, digital, and narrative initiatives to gain exposure, develop community capacity, attract talent, and reach new customers. Anna is an Australian-born speaker, writer and advocate. Connect with Anna on LinkedIn, Instagram, facebook page, & Twitter.