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Work Smarter, Not Harder: 5 Ways to Make This Year Easier

UL Grad School -- 02/01/2017

“Work smarter, not harder.” Sure, it’s a cliché, but when you’re looking for a leg up on grad school success, it rings true. Here are a few practical suggestions for ways to be successful in grad school.

Become a master of prioritization

When faced with a massive to-do list, it’s easy to just stare at it, feel the tides of stress rising within you, and not do anything. The first step to conquering that list is get it all in the right priority. One of the best tools for this is the Priority Matrix, created by Stephen Covey.

Work Smarter, Not Harder in Grad School


It divides up your tasks into four quadrants:

  1. Urgent & important
  2. Not urgent but important
  3. Urgent but not important
  4. Not urgent and not important

By dividing up your tasks into four quadrants of varying importance and urgency, this tool helps keep all your tasks in front of you, but categorized by urgency and importance so you don’t stress over tasks that can wait, allowing you to get the important stuff done first. You don’t even have to use these exact categories---you can customize it to keep yourself organized.

Keep only one to-do list

Today’s technology gives us a dizzying array of options to manage our to-do lists, but ironically, with great options come great confusion. Don’t let yourself build multiple lists in a thousand different spots, because that’ll increase your chances of missing something. Here’s a simple but effective tip: keep one to-do list, and stick to it. If you know that’s where you’ll find all your prioritized, categorized tasks, it’ll be much easier to keep it all in order.How to be more efficient in grad school

Use the power of single-tasking

Our apologies to those of you who think you’re masters of multitasking, but unfortunately, multitasking is a myth. The human brain isn’t capable of true multitasking, and the brand of multitasking that we usually perform just means doing multiple things badly. Instead, harness the power of single-tasking and move through your day with confidence.

Take the pain out of research with online tools

Just hearing the phrase “research” can strike simultaneous fear and sadness into the hearts of grad students. It doesn’t have to be that way! The glorious power of the Internet is here to make your research projects easier and more productive. Check out resources like Google Scholar, Zotero, and Mendeley. As a grad student at UL Lafayette, you also have access to JSTOR, another really useful site. If you speak acronyms like APA, MLA, and ALA, EndNote has a built-in bibliography maker so you’re covered.

Pay attention to relationships & reputation

Your professional career gets its start in grad school, so it’s time to sharpen those networking and relationship-building skills. Get plugged into campus groups with like-minded students, as they might be your co-workers and collaborators one day. Don’t forget to build your professional presence online with a solid LinkedIn profile and think about blogging about your field and work! The more positive and productive of an online presence you have, the better.

There you go! By implementing a few simple steps and utilizing all the tools today’s tech has to offer, you’re well on your way to grad school success.