To continue our new series on how to have healthy boundaries in Graduate School, I sat down with Joyce Chang, a PhD candidate in Sociology, who also works as a consultant for the Graduate Writing Center. Joyce has some wonderful insights about growing in boundaries and shares honestly about the struggles of committing to them.

BearTracks: So first of all, how about you share anything about yourself and your department and where you’re at in your Baylor journey just by by means of introduction of yourself for the post

Joyce Chang: So my name is Joyce. I am a fourth year doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology. I study sociology of religion specifically, and I am in my last semester of coursework. I will be dissertating officially next spring, so I’m very excited!

BT: That is so exciting! Okay, so tell me a little bit about any boundaries that you put on your life. Maybe they’re particular to grad school, maybe they’re from before grad school, but any kind of practices that uou have to put up fences around your time, because grad school can be the gas that fills the room, if we let it.

JC: So I struggle with the boundaries a lot, and it’s been through lots of conversations with people who helped me draw boundaries, because it’s a long journey! I think part of this is also wondering if part of this is harder as a woman working with like male leaders and colleagues. It’s harder to draw boundaries as women. There’s been research done to show that women are prone to say “yes” to more things and put in more emotional labor into things that aren’t necessarily accounted for. Women tend to put in more emotional labor with students in and out of the classroom, more than males are socialized to do. So that’s one thing that I had to learn to identify and draw boundaries around.

One of the things that I’m getting better at is that if I want to get research done, I carve out time where I don’t have to see anyone. I plan my schedule around in a way that allows me that freedom. So today is like one of those days I get to work on this paper that I’m really ready to submit but just need to clean it up. And I’ll work on that today versus me trying to juggle a bunch of tasks, which I feel like wastes a lot of time.

I’ve also found that it’s good to count your hours, and also to put a timer on. We only have accountability to ourselves. This kind of balancing is more on the mental health side of things, I guess. If I make any progress at all, I celebrate that. Because at the end of the day, grading three papers is better than zero.

BT: I think your point about counting the hours is so good. I’m working my way through The Professor is In by Karen Kelsky. And she says to do the same thing because the university is not a charity and you are not a volunteer. You aren’t giving your time out of the abundance of your heart. Being a grad student isn’t your job. It is the means to get a job. So like treat it like that. Don’t settle in and get too comfy.

Okay, the next questions is a choose your own adventure question. What is either A) the best advice you’ve gotten about boundaries, or B) the best tool you use or have been given? I know some people use like Pomodoro timers or focus apps or things like that. So best advice or best tool?

JC: I have found the best tool to be a closed door.

BT: Ooh, that’s so good.

JC: Yeah, I think a closed door does good. Honestly, someone told me this and mentioned the idea of building a routine is actually really good for you. Boundaries work when you have a setup, and it becomes really natural for you to draw these boundaries. Have actual time blocked off to do research.

BT: So recognizing that no one’s great at this, and we’re all still learning and growing, but what has the creation of boundaries allowed to flourish in your life? What has opening up space for non-grad-school-time or just non-constant-neuroticism-about-grad-school opened up in your life? What is what has been allowed to flourish in those spaces you’ve created?

JC: I think by having boundaries in grad school, you have fun. No one talks about how it can be fun; we’re always talking about slaving away, but sometimes if you are able to carve out boundaries you actually get to have fun. You’re not doing work all the time. It gives me time to hang out with people in my program, or go to the dog park, or go our for drinks.

BT: That’s such a good answer. Okay, final question. How do you see developing these skills as an investment in your future? This could be your future in academia, future outside academia, just interpret the question as you will.

JC: I see it as learning how to take care of yourself. I do this for myself. I’m learning that, I, Joyce is important. It’s just good practice. To set up your future for how to build a routine around a life that is going to look a little messy.