This sounds fairly self-explanatory, and it is. However, for some reasons, scores of graduate students everywhere are floating around randomly on bobbing, captain-less ships. Or, they are sailing towards a slave port, because they have allowed their ship to be captained by someone else (it is important to assume, until proven otherwise, that everyone around you is looking to sell you into slavery).
Actually, in many ways, this is my philosophy of life: life is not just stuff that happens to you. It’s what you do to stuff, if you get my meaning. I’m not a terribly patient person, so I was lucky enough to learn early in the grad school process that it is important to take initiative if you ever want to escape. Because it is highly unlikely that anyone else is going to push you to check things off of your list and eventually graduate.
Find out what you need to do and when. Have conversations with your boss about what he or she expects from you. In short, be proactive. As a side note, I also learned this the hard way back a million years ago when I was working in the real world. I was horribly underpaid, and when I found out that I was making less than new people with less experience, I was very, very angry. I even started looking for another job, but as it turned out, all I had to do was to go to my boss and say “I deserve to make X amount of money.” He agreed, and my salary was increased by about 70%. Basically, very often people will give you as little and take as much as they can get away with. I don’t mean this as cynically as it sounds, but it’s usually true to some degree. If you are good at your job and are being mistreated you need to be your own advocate and stand up for yourself. This is definitely true in grad school too.
So get out there and steer, people! Your ship’s a-waitin’, and if it helps, I have an eye patch and a parrot you can borrow.