Four Pillars: Exercise

For the next few weeks we’ll shift our focus to more general productivity fundamentals, which can help you in a wide variety of areas within a graduate program.

There are what I like to call “Four Pillars” that are key to a productive and happy life: exercise, diet, sleep, and mindfulness practice. Let’s start with exercise.

I strongly recommend exercising every single day of your life. While you probably agree that’s a good idea, you may not be doing it – so it’s critical that you reduce any friction in your life keeping you doing so. I recommend exercising first thing in the morning, before heading to campus – you’ll feel better the rest of the day, and there is far less chance “life will get in the way” like it can later on in the day. Exercising first thing each day ensures it remains a top priority in your life, as it should be. And it’s even more important to exercise the mornings of your biggest days of grad school (e.g. the day(s) you take your qualifying exam(s), the day you defend your dissertation, etc.).

A practical note: for much of the year, it may be too dark outside to run outside easily before heading to campus. For years I used small crappy headlamps and tried to run along the sidewalks with the best street lights, but it wasn’t a super satisfactory solution. I then tried a ridiculously bright headlamp I found on Amazon, and it was AMAZING: I could run through my local park in otherwise pitch-black conditions and light up the trail to daylight levels for 30 to 50 yards in front of me. Strongly recommend for early morning runs, especially in the winter time.

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