Tips for Grads: Staying on track in the midst of summer

By Emily Azevedo-Casey, PhD student

Summer is a busy, exciting time when graduate students engage in various activities that support their degree progression, including fieldwork, accelerated classes, internships, independent reading, and proposal writing. Here are some practical tips for a midsummer check-in that promotes resilience, success toward your goals, and preparedness for the upcoming fall semester.

  1. Make time for review: Take a look at the goals you identified at the beginning of summer – are you on track? What is working well, and what is getting in the way? When do you work best? What consistently interrupts your progress? How might you adjust your plan for the rest of the summer? If you are unsure of how you spent you time, monitor it for one week along with recording your thoughts and feelings. Dedicated time for planning and review takes out the guesswork of deciding what to do, when, and why.
  2. Plan for the last half of summer: Remember to work backwards, starting with the goals you want to reach by the end of summer, and break them down into manageable monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. Use insights from tip #1 to make sure your goals are still relevant and adjust as needed. Use a calendar, planner, and to-do list to keep everything organized. Be honest with yourself in a nonjudgemental, compassionate way about your progress.
  3. Celebrate your achievements: It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of being a graduate student, managing multiple projects, feeling pulled in different directions, and experiencing stress. Draw attention to your achievements – big and small, and recognize them as evidence you are moving along towards your goal. Did you read an important article in your field? Complete all of the administrative tasks necessary for you to conduct your fieldwork? Take a moment to remember your accomplishments and share in a research journal, with friends or online community.

This progress check is meant to provide you with an opportunity for reflection and improvement, not discouragement. If you’re concerned about your progress, check in with your advisor or program coordinator to ensure you are on track to complete your degree in a timely manner. Remember to balance your work with self-care and relaxation. Taking breaks, pursuing hobbies, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are crucial for your overall well-being and productivity.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.