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Graduate Student Corner- Spring 2017

Section Editor: Sarah Bannister

Tackling Large Projects

Spring is often a time when students start to feel worn out but still need to finish a number of big projects. Although energy might be low, expectations are not! Personally, I find it challenging to handle a number of large projects, while still balancing expectations like TA-ships and service-work. I have found a number of things helpful that I have shared with you below. Of course, many things may differ based on the project itself, the discipline or subject, life stage, and personality styles. I have also included some resources for further reading. I hope these help you, like they helped me.

Tips for Large Project Deadlines
(This can also include those graduate students with a firm thesis/dissertation defense or completion date)

  • Break the larger task into manageable pieces; incorporate these into a weekly task list or calendar
  • Trick yourself into thinking that due dates are earlier than they really are, this creates a buffer in case of emergency
  • Tackle your most onerous or dreaded task first
  • It’s never too late to start a new resolution to write for 30 minutes or more everyday
  • Develop a writing group with peers either in your program or other members of the DWC at a similar career stage, hold each other accountable and celebrate successes together (these people may also come in handy for later job searches and co-authorships)
  • Keep your mentor/advisor/committee chair informed of pending deadlines, sometimes this helps create some necessary drive and accountability, set regular meetings if schedules allow it
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate tasks (for example, hire a transcription service or pay undergrads for research help)
  • Try a social media fast, for anywhere from a day to a week before a big deadline to help keep you on task (use an app like “focus” to prevent yourself from visiting commonly distracting websites, set your phone on airplane or do not disturb during work time)
  • Ask a friend or loved one to deliver meals to you during a particularly hectic week, you can return the favor during a busy time for them

General Notes

  • Remind yourself of your larger goals
  • Always back up your work as you go using an external drive or cloud system
  • Don’t forget to engage in self-care
  • Save answering emails for the very end of the work day
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek help from mental health and counseling services if they are available through your institution or health insurance , many professionals work on sliding pay scales


  • “National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity,” this is also a great resource for graduate students, individual memberships are available for purchase, but many universities have institutional memberships you can benefit from:
  • “The Professor Is In,” this is both a blog and available in book form. Topics range from how to make a CV to how to make effective presentations. Blog can be found at:
  • Bolker, Joan. 1998. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. New York, NY: Holt Paperbacks.
  • Locke, Lawrence F., Waneen Wyrick Spirduso, and Stephen J. Silverman. 2014. Proposals That Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals. 6th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Tracy, Brian. 2007. Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. 2nd ed. Oakland, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.