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The Chemist: Goal Setting in Grad School

Hey everyone! I hope you’re having a good week. I have to be honest, these last 2 weeks have been ROUGH so I’m just trying to make it to the weekend. This week is going much better than last, but still it’s a struggle. Definitely send love and light my way, please and thank you.


Okay! On to this week’s post. We decided to talk about how we set goals for ourselves while working for other people and I must say this is vital in graduate school. Yes, your advisor has things for you to do but you have to make sure you’re tracking your own progress and achieving your own goals. It is easy to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to try your best to keep your eye on the prize and setting personal goals for yourself can help. For me, setting my own goals keeps me honest and on track. There are certain things I have to get done that don’t have strong deadlines so I make them in an effort to keep myself organized. Here’s how I do it:


Objectively Prioritize

The key word here is “objectively“ and it’s an important distinction to make because there are times when I put things off for the sole fact that I’m not going to enjoy doing it. I’ll push a project to the back burner because another one seems more interesting, or will take less work. What I learned around the time I was doing candidacy was that I had to take a step back, look at my long list of things I have to do, objectively prioritize them, and work on them in that order. You are not going to like everything you research in graduate school, that is just a fact. Some projects are going to work right away and others take 6 months to troubleshoot, but you have to make a decision about what’s the most important thing right now, which varies based on what’s important to you. For chemistry, sometimes you have to work on the project that’s funded, other times you want to work on a project that opens up a direction in your field before other people catch on. Either way you have to be objective when making that decision.

Write it all down!

If I don’t write things down I will forget so I made it a habit to writing down my goals. I have a planner I’m obsessed with so most things go in there. I also have a small notebook I use when thinking about my projects, so they could go in there as well. I also am infamous for using sticky notes! There’s a million on my desk at all times. The key here is that you want to write it down, with the steps, somewhere you can see it. This serves as a constant reminder of the goal you’ve set for yourself.

Give yourself a deadline!

You have to do this or it won’t get done. This is outside of the one you’ll get from your boss. When I was writing my review paper I made a large goal into several smaller ones, each with there own deadline. My advisor and I had a hard deadline we had to meet so I set earlier ones so I could write, proofread, and edit the paper before it even got to him for him to edit. I carved out a lot of time for me to get it all done and it made it feel more manageable, even if we had to get it all done in like 8- 10 weeks.

Get an accountability partner.

A HUGE shoutout to my labmates! They are always my accountability partners for any goal I set. I always write it down and then tell at least one of them so they can check in. Life gets hectic and sometimes things get lost in the shuffle, but it’s always good to have people that care about you check on you and your progress. Feeling supported helps me feel confident in accomplishing my goals.

Those are my top pieces of advice for setting goals as a graduate student. Have any questions? Tweet or DM me and I’ll be happy to answer them.

See you soon! - The Chemist


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