GradLife Chic


Summer Reflections: Conquering Guilt like a Boss

Reflections, Lifestyle, ProductivityMaria JonesComment

This has been such an amazing summer for me but am I the only one who felt like the months flew by?!  In May, I finished ALL required coursework to fulfill the requirements for my PhD!  In June, my family and I went on our annual beach vacation and it was like lounging in paradise! In July, one of my oldest and best friends got married in one of the most beautiful ceremonies I have ever participated in! I was nervous, however, about so many different weeks I would be away from the lab and unable to focus on my research. In the past, I would get nauseous at the idea of not getting work done which kept me from fully relaxing on vacation. Don't get me wrong, I LIVE for a good vacation or Netflix binge, but the post break "guilty guts" I experienced made it hard to enjoy the experience. This summer, however, I have done a better job enjoying my time and actually banishing that guilt to the nether-regions of my subconscious. I want to share with you my process for overcoming this misplaced guilt in order to enjoy my summer.

    1. Reach Out- I had a long to-do list that I wanted to finish before I left town and I was determined to cross off every item! I was sitting at my desk working on a manuscript draft and I was stuck on the introduction. After what felt like hours of staring at the screen ruminating on why I couldn't get past this block, I decided to take action and call someone for help: my Dad. This was one of my best decisions! He reminded me that it is important to step away during those moments so that you do not end up stuck in that nasty limbo where you are both getting no work done and not enjoying the moment. I was feeling so guilty about making slow progress on that section  that it was eating up the rest of the day which I had allotted to other important tasks that needed to be completed before my trips. I was so focused on finishing that one task I forgot to take regular breaks to keep my thinking fresh and my mind alert. Talking it out helped calm my spirit and focus my mind so that I could write.
    2. Mental Reframe- After talking to my Dad about this, I realized I had the wrong mindset and needed to shift my thinking if I wanted things to change. I was so busy sitting at my desk panicking about how much more work I had left to do in the little time before my trip that I didn't even realize I was wasting that time. After talking to my Dad, I had a meditation session to clear and center my mind. Focusing on my breathing and the soothing sounds from the Spotify meditation playlist were extremely helpful. I had an epiphany & realized that whatever I was able to get done before leaving would be enough and upon my return I would finish the rest. Reshaping my thinking took a huge weight off of my shoulders which allowed me to actually focus on my work and get more done! 
    3. Plan Ahead- From my previous blog and Instagram posts about planners, you can tell that I am an organized soul who needs to plan ahead to avoid anxiety and procrastination. I knew that I wanted to finish writing certain dissertation sections and getting my research project materials ready by exactly one week before my friend's wedding. I didn't want to be frantically writing in case I needed a last minute bridesmaid dress adjustment (which of course is exactly what happened). I used my planners to maximize the months, weeks, days, and hours leading up to my travels to ensure maximum productivity. I also scheduled in regular check ins with my productivity buddies to make sure I stayed on schedule....or at least to make sure I strayed as little as possible.

    I hope these tips can help you conquer the guilt and enjoy the moments with friends and family or in solitude away from work!  I know that I fully enjoyed my family vacation and bridesmaid experience because I was able to mentally turn off work worries and focus on the joy of the moment. Do you have any other tips that help you to conquer guilt or other distractions? Share in the comments below!

    Restez Chic Toujours!

    Teamwork Makes the Ph.D. Work

    Productivity, Academia, ReflectionsMaria S. Jones2 Comments

    Happy Sunday Funday! After my last blog post, a few people have asked me what my "Recipe for Success" is in balancing graduate school and my personal life. After giving it some thought, this picture from my regular rotation of desktop backgrounds pretty much sums up my equation: 

    Ph.D. Success= Family + Flowers + Friends.

    Family-My family keeps me grounded and motivated. I aim to achieve the same level of success as my parents and their unwavering support and love are my solid ground. I strive to set a positive example as the oldest and my siblings' strong #TeamMaria enthusiasm and constant comic relief keep me going.

    Flowers-My flowers keep me optimistic and bright. I love keeping flowers in my home. They brighten my space and make me smile every time I walk by them. I like to keep a mix of faux and fresh flowers around so that I can have the benefits of the real ones but enjoy the no maintenance life of the faux ones.

    FriendsMy friends keep me laughing and focused. I am lucky to have so many friends who are equally ambitious across a multitude of disciplines and career paths. Whenever we get together, we have lots of laughs, ruthlessly competitive game nights, and discussions that can end in designing an experiment or a business plan. 

    Teamwork Makes the Ph.D. Work

    One of the things that makes getting a Ph.D. different from other graduate degrees is how individualized it is. Medical, law, seminary, and nursing students for example, go through the same classes and licensing exams together throughout their matriculation. In doctoral programs, however, even doctoral students in your same specialized research lab will be working on something very different form you. We take classes with other students but that is where the sameness ends. In a lot of ways, this can be a lonely process if you don't take advantage of social support networks. Even though we are part of a larger research community in our programs and active members of our lab's research team, your Ph.D. is what you make it. Whether it is seeking out opportunities to collaborate or a supportive sounding board, getting together regularly with others really helps to make the Ph.D. process manageable.


    Every Sunday evening, I have an accountability meeting with several other graduate students to keep our research progress on track. Each week we set goals for reading, writing, and professional development and write them into a Google Doc for everyone to see. We make sure that our weekly tasks are working towards accomplishing our semester and yearly goals. Research tasks are our focus to ensure that we make sure to prioritize these since our weeks can easily become overwhelmed with coursework, teaching, committee, clinical (for some), mentorship, and life tasks. Whenever we can't meet in person, we try to meet via Google hangouts to stay on top of our research goals. For me, this has been extremely helpful since I know I needed to work on prioritizing my research tasks and not letting my schedule get overwhelmed by other important tasks that did not further my research career. In my first blog post, I talked a little about how I let my research progress get further and further down on my to do list as I prioritized my health. This wasn't a bad thing per say but it did not help my research progress. Now that my health is more stable, I have been able to keep up with managing multiple research projects and I know these regular meetings have played a huge role in this productivity streak I have been and hope to stay on.

    We're All in This Together

    I would love to hear about how social support has helped you all! In the spirit of garnering social support networks, introduce yourself I would love to hear more about you! What are your social support networks like? Do you participate in any church or campus organizations that keep you grounded, motivated, and relieve your stress? Do you have a hobby related community that provides the same? The online planner community is one of my current favs! Are you currently in graduate school? Are you interested in applying one day? Let me know in the comments below!


    Bermetria Erskine


    Natasha Grant

    Send me an email with your address to {}

    I will be shipping your Day Designer planner and other Target goodies this week!

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    Make sure to keep an eye out on the blog for more giveaways coming soon!

    Restez Chic Toujours!

    Back in Business

    Productivity, ReflectionsMaria S. JonesComment

    Happy 1st Day of July! There is nothing better than starting off a new month with fresh energy and new opportunities. 

    It seems like its been years since I've updated my blog. I've missed you guys! Being back at work full time after my medical leave has been more of an adjustment period than I originally anticipated. It's exhausting but I am loving it!

    The culture of my new  lab is exactly what I need to be productive. It is run on a "everyone-on-their-own-schedule" structure as opposed to a "strutured-on-a-set-of-lab-rules" one. Some people would be very anxious about being in my new setup because they require a mentor to provide more hands-on guidance on a regular basis whereas I love the flexibility to work when I work best (in the evenings) and can work it around physical therapy sessions for my tendinitis. A more structured lab culture does not work well for my anxiety levels or provide the things I need to be productive but others in that same environment would totally thrive. This is exactly why finding out about the lab culture before you join a research team is crucial. My new research area is something that I am extremely passionate about and honestly did not think I would be able to work on until after I was the Principal Investigator of my own research team because it is so different from my previous work. But I am SO excited about bringing my interest and experience with basic science memory research to help answer critical questions in social psychology and perception.

    After my first week in my new lab, I started supervising an undergraduate student's summer research project. If you'll recall from my first blog post, I LIVE for mentoring students in the arts of research and have always wanted a summer student so I was beyond excited to be blessed with such a responsibility! Working with her the past few weeks has reminded me of the passion I have for research in general and also for the type of research that I do. I am sure you have heard before that you should choose a research area, or any career, in something you are truly passionate (I have gotten this same advice numerous times) but without it graduate school will be a miserable place. Between the long hours in the lab, hours spent outside the lab continuing research, teaching and grading papers, and the long process of getting a large research project off the ground are bearable and even exciting when you truly love what you are doing. I feel like this only became real to me when I realized how different it is just reading a research article about a project that I feel more personally invested in. It seems that I have been more productive in my first month here than in my last year working on a project that I was interested in but not passionate about.

    Restez Chic Toujours! 

    Conference Chic: What's In My Bag

    Academia, Organization, ProductivityMaria S. JonesComment

    Welcome back to the Conference Chic series! If you are just now joining me, be sure to check out my posts on the importance of attending scientific conferences here and how I prepare for conference travel with planning rituals and Evernote here.

    As a recovering over packer, I challenged myself to just stick to the essentials and I think I did a pretty good job! Knowing that I would be doing a lot of walking, I wanted my conference bag to stay light and yet still have anything I might need for the day. One tip that helped me was the fact that I ALWAYS stay at the conference hotels. Usually the more expensive hotel option, the convenience is worth the expense since most of the events will be held there which reduces your commute. Therefore, I was able to keep my bag relatively light with only my Conference Essentials. My iPad Air, a Mophie extra battery case for my iPhone, my very necessary lipstick, a small plastic envelope to corral business cards I received, a business card holder for my own cards, a conference provided water bottle to stay hydrated, as well as tea and snacks to hold me over during back to back sessions.

    What To Wear

    Versatility is key here since there are several different situations to account for. Professional attire for presenting and general conference attendance, slightly more casual dinner attire, and much more casual sightseeing attire. Depending on the size of the conference and field of study, attire tends to range from casual to business professional. Personally, I prefer to stick with the classic business casual attire from the airport to the conference and back. I firmly believe one can never be over dressed! You never know who you will run into on the plane and I like the idea of being prepared in case a casual airport conversation turns into a job opportunity. In another effort not to overpack, I stayed with a classically chic black and white color palette and used interchangeable pieces that all worked together to form several different outfits and professional accessories.

    I look forward to giving you more tips on how to stay conference chic!

    Restez Chic Toujours!