"Your Bag of Apples -- Set Realistic Goals" (post) uses the analogy of "people who try to pack 10 pounds of apples into a 5-pound bag" to offer life-balance advice for graduate students (and instructors) on how to " pick the best apples" and accomplish your goals while avoiding burnout.
A. TL;DR Version
- "[S]et realistic goals. Stay focused on a few priorities."
- "Carefully select your apples: some that need to be there and some that you want to pack."
- "Leave the other ones at the market. You can always pick them up later."
- "Moderation and pacing are valuable life skills that will serve you well."
B. Seven Strategies for Pacing Yourself (each developed more fully in the post)
1. "Say No."
- "You will need [this skill] your whole life, because you will constantly be asked to do something extra."
- "Try saying, 'Not now.'"
- "[O]pportunities will keep coming. You don’t have to do everything right now."
- "Life proceeds in chapters, and some things can be set aside for later."
- "[M]aster delegation as you advance through grad school, into a postdoc, and start a job."
- "[Y]ou can work with undergraduate researchers. Take the time to train them very well."
- "Then let them do chunks of your work."
- "Do a few projects, not 15."
- "[S]e[t] a pace that is sustainable throughout your career."
- "[M]ode[l] a healthy academic life to those you mentor."
5. "Shut out distractions."
- "[C]lose your email ... [D]on’t open your email until you have worked for two hours every morning."
- "Make appointments with yourself to complete high-priority tasks."
6. "Don’t compare yourself to others.".
- "It is easy to see how many apples others seem to stuff into their bags, and try to keep up."
- "Don’t! You need to figure out how to fill your own bag, and which apples to put in it."
7. "Be gentle with yourself."
- "All scholars and scientists have well a developed inner critic. It can get too loud, and it can be mean."
- "Balance [this critical voice] with kindness to yourself; take time for reflection."
- "Offer yourself gentleness and self-care."