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Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

Grad School Resolutions: 5 Ways to Make This Semester Better

I loved my first semester in grad school, but it was also a complete whirlwind. While I had a great time, I also didn’t do as well as I could have at managing time and logistics, and I finished the semester feeling pretty exhausted. Given what I’ve heard from others in grad school, I imagine that I’m not the only one ready for a break now that finals are over!

Because this time of year is all about making resolutions, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do to make next semester even better than this past one. Here are my goals for the next six months—I hope they inspire you to make some changes that will make your spring much more manageable, too!

1. Plan Out My Week on Sunday

When I was working, I used to spend an hour each Sunday cleaning out my inbox and writing my action plan for the coming week. Even though it was technically working on the weekend, it always felt great to wake up on Monday morning knowing exactly what my week looked like.

At school—this hasn’t exactly happened. I tend to do schoolwork on Sundays, so I never feel like I have an hour to set aside just to make a fancy to-do list. What I’ve found, though, is that when I do take the time to plot out my week, everything goes much more smoothly—I’m not as stressed about getting my homework done, I consistently find time to exercise, and I’m also able to do more fun things with friends. This is something that I really want (and need) to bring back into my weekly routine.

2. Make Better Use of My Afternoons

Between the time class ends and dinner starts, I usually find myself with a bunch of 30-60 minute breaks as I go from meeting to meeting. And I’ve somehow convinced myself that because the blocks are so short, I won’t be able to get any “real” work done, so I usually end up wasting that time. In reality, I could probably be getting about two more hours of sleep every night if I started using that time more productively!

Next semester, I want to make it a point to make good use of that time, always carrying my homework for the week with me so that I have something to work on at a moment’s notice. And when I’m planning out my week, per goal #1? I’ll carve out some shorter tasks to work on specifically during that time.

3. Re-work My Budget to Make it More Realistic

Life without a salary is definitely hard to navigate. Like I recently recommended to you all, I carefully made a budget before coming to school in hopes that it would help keep me honest about my spending. My reasons for creating the budget were right on, but I didn’t do as well on the execution.

Turns out, my spending habits now are very different than they were pre-business school. For example, this fall I spent hundreds of dollars I hadn’t planned for on a combination of club dues, class dues, and event tickets—but a lot less money on groceries than I did before school. Now that I have a better idea of what life at b-school is like, it’s time for me to adjust my budget so that it is more in line with my current spending habits.

4. Get Eight Hours of Sleep a Night

Something I’ve discovered during the past semester is that I’m a lot older than I was in undergrad, which means (among other things) that I can’t sleep for fewer than five hours a night and expect myself to function at full capacity. When I was working full time, I always went to bed early, but now there’s so much going on at night that I don’t want to miss out on. But at my school we have academic obligations that start at 8 AM, and the faculty is very strict about skipping class, so I’m basically out of luck if I stay up until 2 AM catching up on emails.

This semester, I’m going to really focus on getting eight hours of sleep a night, even if it means that I spend a little less time on homework than I wanted to—regardless of how much time I spent preparing the night before, I’ll always do better in class if I’m awake enough to make a coherent comment. To help me meet this goal, I’ve decided to set an alarm at 10 PM as a reminder to start wrapping the evening up.

5. Get Out of the Campus Bubble

If your school is anything like mine, it exists inside a campus bubble that’s pretty hard to get out of—everything you need is nearby, so why make the effort to go to a new part of the city?

Well, if you don’t, you’ll end up living in a city that you never spend any time in! I moved to Boston in August, and I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of what it has to offer—but it’s always just easier to go out to dinner at the local pseudo-good Thai place than to get on the train and go into the city. Given that I’ve only got 18 months left of school, I’ve decided that I need to start spending some time exploring my new home and getting out of my local area at least once a week. Along with helping me learn more about Boston, I think it will also help put things in perspective—it’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s happening on campus, so getting away for an evening can be extremely refreshing.

Hopefully sharing these goals with you will inspire you to set some goals of your own (and help hold me accountable to mine)! What grad school resolutions are you making this year?

Photo of student courtesy of Shutterstock.