Organization and Workflows in Grad School

Last Friday, I was asked to be on a panel for the grad students in my department, the Math Department, to answer questions about organization and developing workflows in grad school.  Building in organization and workflows while you are in grad school can help you manage your time more efficiently and be more productive. And that is definitely what we want in grad school!  There is no time to waste!


Organization and Workflows in Grad School | Grad School Panel Discussion | The Academic Society with Toyin Alli

In this post, I will list the questions that were asked and provide some of the answers given by the panel.

Organization and Workflows in Grad School Panel Discussion

What is your biggest challenge to balancing teaching, research, service, and home life?


Answer 1:  You can do all of these things well; but not at the same time.

Answer 2:  Not knowing myself or when I worked best.  I’m a morning person but the classes I taught would be in the morning.  So when the afternoon came, I was exhausted and not motivated to do research.


What do you know now about organization and balance that you wish you knew when you first started grad school?


Answer 1:  Knowing myself and when I was most productive for different tasks.

Answer 2:  Creating a morning routine, especially when you don’t have morning classes or classes at all.

Answer 3:  Dedicating time for myself helps to reduce burnout.

Answer 4;  SLEEP! The amount of work you get done and the quality of it dramatically increases when you have enough sleep.


Related Video:  How to Prevent Burnout in Grad School


Are there ways students can work together to help each other balance their schedules?


Answer 1:  My friends and I planned our tests for the same day so that we could have grading parties together and we wouldn’t procrastinate.  We also planned gym time together.

Answer 2:  Having shared folders for teaching materials is very helpful.

Answer 3:  Studying together helps.

Answer 4:  Student led seminars to help fill in the gaps for topics not learned in classes.


What apps or technology do you use to help keep organized?


Answer 1:  Google calendar

Answer 2:  Trello (I have a training called The Grad School Toolkit that walks you through how to use Trello in grad school.)

Answer 3:  Loose leaf paper instead of notebooks and then scanning those pages to have digital copies of all your notes

Answer 4:  Dropbox/Box/One Drive (cloud storage)


How do you have productive meetings with your advisor?


Answer 1:  Ask questions!

Answer 2:  Create an agenda for your meetings.  I had a formula that I used every meeting:

  • What we talked about last time

  • What I worked on

  • Where I got stuck

  • Questions I have

  • HW/readings for next time


How do you stay on task and not lose time?


Answer 1:  To-do lists

Answer 2:  Order to-do lists by priority and give yourself time limits.

Answer 3:  Set deadlines for yourself.

Answer 4:  Get an accountability partner and meet with them once a week to set goals and discuss progress.


I hope that this panel discussion was helpful.  If you want to join me live, when I have these talks, feel free to join my Facebook group for grad students.