November 2020

Grad School or The Shining? (Part 1 of 2) teaser image
Productivity: A Grad Students Idol
Part 1 of 2

It’s finally the spookiest of all seasons, and not just because of the Halloween décor in front yards or the horror movies on TV.  It’s because we’re at that time of the year where projects accumulate, finals are loom ahead, deadlines approach, and dread begins to settle in. Grad students everywhere have increased stress from all the pressures of school. Do you remember the famous quote from the shining, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” That’s what this season of grad school reminds me of.

image-1-right.jpgI was sitting down for coffee with a fellow grad student this week when she said “There aren’t enough hours in the day. I go to bed at 2:00AM trying to complete a writing assignment but have to wake up at 5:00AM because I have more to do!” Another one of my peers texted me as I was writing this blog post to say, “I just want a break,” referring to the 14 hours of work that he has sunk into one assignment.

image-2-centered.jpgI related to this, and I think many graduate students do. After speaking to other students from my program about school stresses, I started to realize that we’re all slowly turning into different versions of Jack Torrance from The Shining, and there’s no question why. With help from some MPSA and MIA students, I was able to calculate the average amount of hours spent on schoolwork. Here’s what I found:

Activity Time Frequency Per Week Total
Reading 3 hours 4 12 hours
Classes 3 hours 4 12 hours
Research 1 hour 5 5 hours
Writing 2 hours 4 8 hours
Projects 3 hours 3 6 hours
Meetings 1 hour 4 4 hours
Administrative Duties 1 hour 1 1 hour
Homework 3 hours 4 12 hours
    Total 60 hours

image-3-right.jpgThis shows a rough estimate of 60 hours per week for the average graduate student without a job.  But, if you throw a part-time job into the equation, you would see that a grad student could spend 80 hours per week just on school and work.  Can you say "crazy"? How is that even possible? How can grad students have any kind of life apart from academia?

Unfortunately, this is the status quo for grad students; always be on your A-game, work hard, be productive, and check off your to-do list. This life-style creates false fulfillment for grad students. We attach our self-worth and identity to our academic achievements. We begin to live only for the hundreds of pages of readings, 4 scholarly essays a week, 12 hours of class, daily assignments, work in group projects, and capstones. Schoolwork becomes our meaning, our identity, and the thing we live for. That’s not what it is supposed to be.  

I want to challenge those who read this to step back and examine where their identity comes from. I have a feeling that most of you are going to think your identity comes from your achievements as a student, but that shouldn’t be the case! I want to remind you that there is more to life than essays and research! Do not let the fear of being unproductive deter you from enjoying life. Break the status quo! And most importantly, never forget that “all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”
My next blog post will explore some of the possible ways that grad students can return to their center and get away from the pressures and demands of grad school. Stay tuned!

--- Lily Bivins

Lily Bivins is a master's student in the Department of Bush School of Public Service

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