Starting the Quarter Off Right

By William Ota |

Grad school comes with many beginnings and ends, from experiments to years and in this case quarters! With each of these opportunities, every one of us has the chance to begin practicing new habits to help us succeed in the challenging endeavor of degree completion (and the avoidance of others asking, “So when do you graduate?”). For some, these healthy habits are well-practiced and integrated parts of their daily routine, and for others, they are something we (I) continually struggle to put into practice. I hope these ingenious and innovative suggestions help each of you settle into the quarter (and the lunar new year!), increase your productivity, and most importantly achieve a healthy work-life balance.


[Image Description: A stick figure balances atop a ball, with the words "work" on one side and "life" on the other.]

Pictured: This is only easy if you're a stick figure.

  • Create a writing schedule: Creating a writing schedule is one of the best ways to keep to our goals and finish that paper, report, or chapter sitting on your desktop ever since you gave it a title and thought, “I’ll get to that soon.” Some simple steps to establish this new writing schedule include:
  1. Choose a set amount of time and time of day when you feel productive and can sit down at your computer.
  2. Put this time in your calendar or planner, so there is a consistent reminder to create a commitment to this habit.
  3. Prioritize one or two projects at a time with specific goals and tasks to accomplish during this time.
  4. Sit down in a designated work space and write (not scroll through social media) for the designated time you have chosen.

As you begin this new writing schedule, remember that the worst thing you can do is say to yourself, “I’ll start this tomorrow.”

  • Exercise and spend time outdoors: Now that you are sitting down every day to write don’t forget that exercise and the outdoors are an important part of protecting yourself from burnout and staying healthy. There are both physical and psychological benefits to doing both of these things on a regular basis. If you are able to spend time in outdoor green spaces (and it's so green at UCR right now!), it has been shown that this can even increase motivation to complete other work. If you’re on campus, think about taking a stroll around the UCR Botanic Gardens or up to Picnic Hill to eat lunch in the sunshine. You can consider starting a stretching routine if you want to do something at home and work on that "tech neck" that might be starting to pop up.


[Image Description: Painting teacher Bob Ross pets a baby deer and looks very happy about it.]

Pictured: When nature loves you back ("Over here I'm gonna put a happy little Bambi...").

  • Start a new hobby: After a long day in the library, lab, or classroom, remember to take some time for yourself. Hobbies are a great way to unwind after a long day and give yourself a break from work. I personally enjoy taking a break from writing about treated toilet water’s effect on fish to craft epic and thrilling tales of adventure for my Dungeons and Dragons group, and perhaps spend a little too much time developing lore that no one (cough *Sarah* cough) decides to read. Other ideas include painting, board games with friends, reading, gardening, or sky diving (that last one may not be for everyone).


  • Drink lots of (coffee) water: We all know the most important thing to have on a daily basis is lots of (coffee) water. Remembering to drink enough (coffee) water helps you stay focused and feeling your best. (Coffee) Water is important for preventing headaches and will help you stay productive in all areas of your life.


[Image Description: A character from Gilmore Girls asks, "One bag of coffee per cup of water, right?]

Pictured: Some days the answer to this question is yes.

I hope these genius and novel suggestions (came up with it all myself! did no research!) will help you get a productive start to the quarter and year and help you accomplish your goals. If you need more help with your writing (first bullet point), make sure to come by the Graduate Writing Center where the consultants can help with everything you need. I wish you all the best and I hope your next article submissions gets a reviewer 2 who isn’t TOO terrible.