“Development at any level occurs as a result of two conditions: challenge and support (Sanford, 1966). According to Sanford, when individuals are presented with a challenging situation or experience that has not previously been encountered, a new response emerges, thereby resulting in development. If too many new situations emerge without the appropriate support to mitigate these challenges, however, the individual may actually digress in his or her development. Therefore, it is the optimum balance of challenge and support that underlies development.” (Gardner 2009, p. 7)

Build Your Toolkit

Get to Know Your Dept/College

Make sure to learn about your department. It's important to understand concreate elements such as where things are located, departmental policies, and key staff including their responsibilities. However, to be truly successful students should learn the department norms and culture. What are the unspoken social rules.

Set Priorities

Having the ability to distinguish between urgent and important tasks is a critical skill in your toolkit. 

  • Urgency, tasks associated in a time towards a particular mark
  • Importance, tasks associated with value or meaning towards progress 

So a task could be looked at by urgency (e.g., bill payment) or importance (completing first draft of proposal). So each of these types of assessments can be applied to an individual task, or applied collectively. This is where things being to get more complex as any task can be evaluated against something urgency and importance. 


Plan for Waiting

Lets break a typical academic task:

  1. Pre-task - this is the time before the task. This is the time where you may need gather certain resources. Certain books may not be available yet that could delay the project. Take these into consideration when planning
  2. Task Activity - this is the time it takes you to actually complete the time. 
  3. Wait-time - this is time waiting...e.g. waiting for a lab equipment or for an experiment to run, waiting for your supervisor's approval on something, waiting in line at the grocery store...
  4. Task Alterations - completing changes to the task, which may require cycling back between task 3 and 4 a few times.
  5. Task Completion - the task is complete.
  6. Duration - is the time of all the stages. 

Often when people are planning, they think of their time and efforts required to do the task, but underestimate the requirement of other tasks such as the preparation work and wait time. Make sure to keep these concepts and strategies in mind when planning throughout your studies. 

Mental Hygiene

What is mental hygiene? It's a movement...committed to actions that aim to close the gap for mental disorders. Mental hygiene is the science of maintaining mental health and preventing the development of psychosis, neurosis, or other mental disorders.

Why are we talking about this? There is evidence suggesting that graduate students were more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety compared to the general national population. [Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health Toolkit] The reality of a grad student's lifestyle and the nature of their work is fundamentally different from those of our undergraduate peers. Grad students are found at the forefront of cutting edge technology, they put in long hours because...this, is their passion.

The Impossible Task

The impossible task is the additional weight that a task conintues to build. One way to overcome this is every day is to "eat your frogs" and tackle two things every morning that you are putting off.