Graphic: "Your worth is not measured by your productivity"
Artist: France Corbel

When you ask a fellow graduate student how they’ve been, how often do you get one of these responses: “It’s been crazy busy!” “I pulled three all-nighters this week.” “I was in lab until 4 a.m.”

The graduate school experience can be a prime example of hustle culture — a place full of smart, ambitious people each trying to optimize their way through their degree to get to where they’re going next, or in many cases, just make ends meet. There is an unspoken rule that in order to be successful, you have to be putting in the work, and the best way to show that is by putting in long hours.

This mindset can actually lead to many negative impacts, including lost productivity, burnout, imposter syndrome, and feelings of intense anxiety and guilt about being unproductive.

The reality, however, is that we all have individual circumstances that determine how much we’re able to dedicate to any project or life circumstance at any given time. What’s important is to define what your priorities and goals are, establish realistic (and forgiving) timelines, and then make sure you’re using the strategies that work for you to achieve them.

  • Be on the lookout for burnout, and acknowledge the feelings. Be open to talking about it with your peers and and raise awareness. Give yourself permission to do something for fun (or nothing at all!).
  • Understand your own goals, keeping in mind external influences and your internal values. Consider short-term gains and long-term health.
  • Make room for boredom. We need boredom to be creative – so if you find yourself stuck on a particularly difficult problem, don’t be afraid to take a break and harness subconscious thought. Go for a walk, take a shower, or go get some coffee.
  • Don’t underestimate your own resilience. We have limited capacity to spend on a world of projects and priorities. Trust yourself enough to know that you will make the most of whatever you choose to spend your time and effort on.