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!

    Such a 'GradLife Chic' Day!

    Lifestyle, Reflections, Academia, PlannersMaria Jones1 Comment

    As I was reflecting on my day today on the phone with my dear friend Dr. A. Jones, she laughed and exclaimed, "You're having the Maria Jonesiest of days!" I almost cried laughing at the description but it was pretty accurate! Spelman woman, planners, shopping, pink and gold all quite accurately describe my day. In fact, they describe me so well that it felt like the perfect day to reveal my new logo designs and website! 



    This glamorous pink and gold reflects my general personality, personal brand, as well as the amazing day I had! I started my day off bright and early at my beloved alma mater, the ILLUSTRIOUS Spelman College. As you may recall from this post last April, I love going back to campus because it feels like coming home and I always enjoy giving back to the community that helped shape the woman I am today. I was once again serving as a judge for the psychology session at Spelman's Annual Research Day and proud of the research that the current students were conducting. Since mentoring is an important part of my love for academia, it is always a pleasure to provide feedback to budding young researchers. After leaving Spelman, I went back to campus in time for my weekly journal club and TA meetings. #GradLifeWin

    After my class and teaching responsibilities concluded, I went to go pick up my brand new lifestyle blogger business cards! The cards were designed by the wonderfully sweet and talented Jessica who also designed the new logos for my blog! You can find more of her work at her website here. Not only did she take the time to design a logo that reflected my inner essence so well but quickly designed these cards so that I could get them printed in time for Southeast Planner Con tomorrow! INSERT HIGH PITCHED SQUEALS OF PLANNER NERD DELIGHT! Afterwards, I went to the mall to grab this cute pink skirt to coordinate with the planner goodies I decided to take with me including my mini Day Designer & Target Style mini pad folio. If you're interested in a Day Designer planner you can check them out here.

    I am SO  excited to take a short break from grad school life to engage fully in my planner loving addiction! Most of the people in my life are shocked and amused that a Planner Con even exists and can't believe I'm going. I can't either because I get to plan, decorate, and network with the planner community in person! Let me know if you'll be attending because I would love to meet you!

    Make sure to follow me on social media at the links in the sidebar for pictures from the event as well as a planner inspired giveaway coming soon!

    Restez Chic Toujours!


    *Post contains affiliate links. All items pictured were purchased by me and all opinions are genuinely my own.*

    Happy New Year!

    Reflections, Planners, LifestyleMaria S. JonesComment

    Happy New Year! I hope you all have been enjoying fun times with loved ones and getting some rest before the new year. As I sit down with my planners and get ready for this new month and year, I want to take a minute to reflect on how I kicked 2015's ass and how I plan to stay consistent in 2016. As I am sure you can guess from the image above, I have FINALLY chosen my word for 2016: Consistency.

    In 2015, I decided to choose a single word around which I centered my goals: Simplify. I was originally inspired in 2014 during my qualifying exams to simplify my life because I felt SO overwhelmed by the task at hand coupled with the amount of STUFF that seemed to be closing in on me. I suppose then it was more of a 2014-2015 goal because it has been a long road to simplification. I would not go so far as to say it has been a journey into minimalism but I have borrowed heavily from those practices. I wanted to clear out the physical clutter which, I have always believed, is a manifestation of mental and emotional clutter. After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (found on Amazon) in 2015, I was able to take the purging to the next level and even reduced a major component of my shopping impulses. Was it also a way to productively procrastinate during breaks from my exam? Probably! Did I significantly reduce the amount of unnecessary items from my home and life? Yes! I purged so many clothing items, office supplies, beauty products, toxic relationships, and knickknacks I had acquired over the years and it truly was a life changing and magical process! Not to mention it shifted my mindset and contributed to other 2015 wins: returned from medical leave with a clean bill of health, spent an entire calendar year hospital free, travelled internationally, empowered myself by helping others reach their goals, planned a new research trajectory, and survived my first semester back on my PhD grind.

    I am SO excited to kick off this year on a positive and energized note. After making so much progress this past year, I want to make sure I keep riding this momentum by practicing consistency in all areas of my life. I want to be more consistent in managing my health, research projects, finances, relationships with loved ones and God, and more! I am a little nervous as I type this because now it's real and out there on the Internet forcing a new level of accountability. PHEW! In the spirit of holding myself accountable, I plan to use my next few posts in January to discuss my goals in more detail and discuss some of the tools I plan to use to achieve them (spoiler alert: planners, apps, and color coding are involved). What are your goals for 2016? If you also choose a word a year let me know 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!

    I want to say a big


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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! 

    Back in Action

    ReflectionsMaria S. Jones2 Comments

    I'm baaaaack!! Yesterday was my first day back from being on a leave of absence for a year. I'm in a bizarre place where I kind of feel like a brand new first-year graduate student since I am in a different lab working with a new advisor but with the knowledge of having been in the program for the past four years. It's a very interesting feeling. Equally scary and invigorating. I spent the majority of my first day bonding with my new labmates, getting my computer set up, getting started on my extensive reading list for the summer, and generally getting organized.  I am so excited about my future academic career!!!

    ...wait...did I just say that?!

    It feels strange to read that sentence since not too long ago I was so exhausted physically, mentally, and spiritually from graduate school that it became necessary to take a medical leave of absence. Despite being in so much pain, my passion for the academic lifestyle remained strong. The fact that I feel so excited, despite the gargantuan task of starting my research program over, tells me that I made the right decision and I couldn't be happier!

    Not to get too emotional on you but I really don't know where I would be right now if it wasn't for the loving support of my parents, my sister and brother, my amazing friends, my awesome cohort, the faculty and staff at my university, and my own determination to finish this Ph.D.

    Restez Chic Toujours!

    Spelman Research Day

    Academia, ReflectionsMaria S. JonesComment

    Visiting my alma mater always fills me with a sense of joy and peace at coming home. I served as a judge for the oral sessions in psychology at Spelman College’s Research Day. I love those days that remind you of why you love doing what you’re doing and this was definitely one of them.  As a full fledged night owl, being awake and functioning at 6:00am is usually torture but I was too excited to get to be a judge. As a previous award winning presenter myself, I always love coming back and hearing the work that the current students are doing and providing insights into applying to graduate programs. I know I know, that was a shameless tooting of my own horn but if you don't remind yourself of how awesome you are then, FUN FACT- the constant feedback could wear at your spirit in graduate school if you start to take criticisms of your work personally instead of the constructive manner they are usually meant.

    After that aside to embracing you're awesomeness back to research day. I was extremely impressed by my Spelman psychology sisters on Friday! Their presentations were well articulated and visually stunning (I was SWOONING at their infographics) and easily on par with other graduate student presentations I have seen. Made me want to put on my recruiter hat and woo them to my department! Asking them questions about their work and writing my feedback gave me a glimpse of a fraction of what it will be like when I am a faculty member. Experiences like these where I am able to give my time to budding researchers, particularly other women of color, reminds me of how much I love academia and my aspirations towards tenure.

    Restez Chic Toujours!


    Lifestyle, ReflectionsMaria S. Jones5 Comments

    I am a doctoral student in cognitive developmental psychology with a passion for child development, mentoring, and color-coding. As the oldest of 3 siblings, I have spent the majority of my life mentoring and using my victories-as well as my mistakes-to help others navigate their own situations. I love it! It also helps that when I imagine a job posting for "Professional Mentor" I always think about how I have been training for this my entire life- thanks Mom & Dad!

    The idea for GradLife Chic was born while sitting in a doctor's office after complications following eye surgery. I had a large tote bag packed full with my laptop, pile of articles, and library books as I was preparing my dissertation proposal. I sat there ruminating on how the delays related to the procedure were going to delay the draft I needed to have finished that day and was halfway to a full blown panic attack when I realized that I needed to get my priorities in order. At the rate I was going, neither my work nor my health were getting properly prioritized. I had considered taking a leave of absence at several points of my early graduate career as my chronic health issues were all exacerbated by the chronic stress of pursuing a Ph.D. Since I had just passed my qualifying exams a few months before, I decided it was finally the right moment to take a break from my work and focus on healing so that I can return to school with renewed energy and strength.

    Despite experiencing setbacks in my research program because of those illnesses, I earned a National Science Foundation grant, successfully completed my master's thesis, and passed my qualifying exams in my first 3 years. People have often asked me how I maintain such an effervescent disposition despite having such health difficulties. Well let me tell you it is not as easy as I must be making it look. The short answer is phenomenal social support, amazing healthcare, mindfulness meditation, waterproof mascara, dance breaks, and a bright colorful workspace.

    Interested in learning more details about stylishly surviving and thriving in graduate school? Curious about getting into graduate school? Already in graduate school and looking for a supportive ear? Then you are in the right place! Hopefully my tips and testimony will bless and motivate someone as we navigate this journey through the Ph.D. and beyond!

    Restez Chic Toujours!