For the graduate/doctoral students out there, I hope you are all enjoying a great and well-deserved holiday break! Before all the chaos and stress-crazed days begin again, I wanted to bring up this idea of "scheduled play time." There are so many articles out there about scheduling your study time and other daily routines, but play is rarely mentioned.
Throughout each semester, I hear more and more graduate students who defeatedly sigh, "I am so stressed out all the time," and "I don't have time for anything or anybody anymore." Stress, grad school, and "hermiting" (when you lock yourself up and don't see the light of day or the company of any friends until finals are over) are unfortunately too often linked, and it is a perspective that needs to be changed. Becoming a successful grad student does not mean shutting yourself out from friends and family and depriving yourself of taking breaks.
Reduce Risk of Burnout by Scheduling Time for Play
Take the time to schedule meaningful breaks/outings ahead of time, and you will be able to achieve a much better work/life balance during the semester. Instead of language that reminds you what you are depriving yourself of, ("I can't go to dinner with my friends because I have to study."), you begin to engage in language that reminds you of your rewarding breaks/outings that you have to look forward to ("I will stay home and study now so that I can go to dinner with my friends next week.")
Having meaningful non-school-related play events scheduled throughout the semester can help take the edge off of feeling like you have to study every minute of every day. You will leave these outings feeling refreshed, happy, and ready to get back into studying again. Having scheduled play can also help you get your study time organized. Spontaneous activities are fun but often cause a lot of stress, whereas for scheduled events, you still get a healthy dose of fun, but you have time to adjust your studying accordingly.
So before the semester starts again next week, take some time during the remainder of your break to look up some (affordable) concerts or ball games you would like to go to, text your friends to set up a day for lunch/dinner/brunch in the near-future, pencil in some fun hikes, sign up for a paint nite, whatever floats your boat and would help you to feel energized and happy. Throughout the semester, if you feel like you're getting into a rut, plan a few more events that will help you reset and get back on the study train.
Make sure you keep a calendar to keep track of your playtimes. Use this calendar to also write down assignment due dates and exam dates. Lastly, practice writing SMART goals when it comes to studying so that you can make realistic scheduling plans.
Happy (scheduling fun things into the) New Year!!!