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Stop time leaks, end cravings, snag an interview, get happy in 2 minutes, and more | Issue 196


"Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter. -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit


1. Top grad student apps: Prep for exams & track productivity


Anxious about preparing for qualifying exams? Enhance your memory by summarizing key points on flashcards and then testing yourself on Brainscape. The freemium app learns which ones you need to practice most and tracks your mastery. Share your deck with your peers and across your devices and set yourself up for passing with confidence.


Where did all that time go? Find out by using RescueTime to track the hours you spend on different activities, including email, projects, writing, etc. You can set productivity goals and even block websites with this freemium app. Each week's score lets you know if you really did dissertate or study as much as you intended—or fell down too many rabbit holes. Growing your self-awareness lets you take command of how you spend your time.


2. Going to screw up or drop out? Five grad student traps to avoid


Up to half of the roughly 500,000 students who start graduate school every year never finish, observes Lynn O'Shaughnessy of Moneywatch. As dropping out can be expensive, she warns against these big mistakes: Expecting to finish a PhD quickly, being clueless or misguided about your career opportunities, thinking the graduate experience will be a continuation of your undergrad years, failing to focus on the funding for your degree, and choosing the wrong advisor. She highly recommends 57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School, by professors Kevin D. Haggerty (University of Alberta) and Aaron Doyle (Carleton University).


3. Maximize your shot at a tenure-track job


Maximize your chances of an interview and eventual tenure-track job with insider tips from Kansas State U's Philip Nel's recent piece in Insider Higher Ed, "Essay on advice for academics starting their careers." He offers the skinny on how to maximize your publications and CV appeal, while noting the limitations of merit and advice—even his. Finally, he exhorts us to stop defining success as a traditional track in academia. Click on the link to get the details.


4. Boost your happiness in just 2 minutes


Vacation is over—but you don't need to wait for the next big thing to be happy. It's the little things that count, says happiness expert Shawn Achor. Start the habit of sending a two-minute "thank you" email or text as soon as you sit down to work. It will boost your mood, creativity, and productivity—and enhance your relationships. A total win-win. Other two-minute daily happiness habits to build: Think of three new things to be grateful for, vividly recall and savor a pleasant memory, and take your hands off your keyboard and breathe deeply.


5. Reduce cravings for sex, cigarettes, and food in 3 minutes


Remember Tetris, the old block-shifting game? One study found that playing it for as little as three minutes now and then during the day could significantly decrease common cravings, e.g., food, coffee, drugs, sex, sleep, etc. Participants were prompted by cellphones to report their cravings seven times during the day, and half were instructed to play Tetris immediately and again report their cravings. Researchers suggest that playing Tetris occupies the mental processes that would otherwise be used for the visual imagery present in craving. Potential takeaway: Play Tetris to distract yourself from more serious detours while working—but get back to dissertation work after three minutes or one game, whichever comes first.


6. End night computer blindness once and for all


Ever been blinded by the glare of your computer screen while working at night? That's because backlit screens were designed to look like the sun. . . which is not something we want late at night. You can fix this by installing f.lux. It's free, and it adapts the color of your display to the time of day. . . warm at night, like sunlight by day. Some people use the app on various devices because they feel it helps them sleep better. . . and some of us because we prefer the lower glare. (And it is fun to watch the screen hues soften as the sun sets.)



About the Authors



An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources at She also speaks fluent Spanish and delights in new exotic Scrabble words as she savors life in the Chesapeake Bay area, California, and Argentina.


BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (, a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.


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