The graduate school journey is a far more rigorous one than the one you embarked on during your undergraduate career. As such, it can sometimes be easy to fall behind in your coursework or reading. Unfortunately, the heightened level of difficulty makes it harder to recover when you fall behind. However, by being proactive about asking for help, refocusing quickly, managing your time well and creating a sense of balance, you can quickly restore your sense of academic equilibrium.
Ask for Help
When we fall behind, our first instinct is to withdraw in embarrassment or try and solve issues on our own, but fighting that instinct makes all the difference. Start by asking individuals in your program for help. Building relationships with professors and program administrators can help soften the blow of an academic misstep, and other students in your program can help provide resources and perspective to get you back on track. If you need an outside perspective on the craziness, look to your family for comfort and support.
Get in the Zone
Sometimes, falling behind is symptomatic of an overall loss of focus. There are many ways to try to get back in the zone of academic success. An important strategy to refocus yourself is to eliminate distractions, a task that you can accomplish by unplugging. Avoiding distracting websites and mobile phones can do wonders when trying to focus on a specific task. Another way to rebuild focus on work can be to vary your study times and locations. Finding new places and times to study and work could help you find a new routine that yields greater success.
Manage Your Time Well
Another cause of falling behind in grad school can be a lack of time management skills. Graduate school is considerably more rigorous than most undergraduate programs, and the balancing act of reading, assignments and work can be too much sometimes. Combat time mismanagement by creating schedules for your school career for the weeks and months ahead. Having a handle on your obligations can guide how you spend your time. Pay close attention to how much time common tasks take and schedule yourself accordingly. Attention to how you spend your time can help you regain productivity.
Have Balance in the Process
With so much to accomplish in a short period, sometimes burnout can affect the motivation you have to get work done. It's important to remember that you need to balance graduate school, however demanding, with non-school pursuits. As you work toward your degree, make time for friends, family and yourself. Taking time to focus on something other than your studies can give you the perspective it takes to redouble your efforts in the classroom. Whether it's burnout, time mismanagement or loss of focus, remember that it's entirely possible to catch up after falling behind in graduate school.
Amma Marfo is a Boston-area higher education professional and writer. She also writes for The Niche Movement, Talking Points Memo, and her personal site, The Dedicated Amateur.