Effective time management is crucial to succeeding in your PhD.Many PhD students don't know how to do it. They often feel overwhelmed and lost with the tasks they have to do. Good organization and smart time management are the keys to succeed in your PhD.
Here we present you 7 technics how to manage your time effectively during your PhD, to get things done fast and well!
1. Write down and monitor your goals
Write down your goals at the beginning, of each week and each month. If possible consult those goals with your supervisor. Note all the deadlines you have in the coming months. Write down all the reunions and classes and other activities that will take your time out of the research. This will give you a clear overview of the time you have for the research and the goals you need to achieve within this time. Split your goals into smaller tasks, and set the priorities.
An excellent method to prioritise tasks and reduce the feeling of overwhelm is the Eisenhower matrix
Monitor your goals regularly. Research in psychology has shown that people regularly monitoring their goals are more efficient and able to plan better their time. It will help you evaluate your progress and manage better the time you need to devote to each task.
2. Work when you are the most efficient
Observe yourself and note the moments of the day and night that you are the most focused. Some people prefer working in the mornings others in the afternoons or evenings. Mind the moments you are the most focused and keep them for the most challenging tasks.
3. Work regularly
Easy to say, hard to do. Working regularly in your PhD is extremely important. There may be days where you are tired, not motivated, or you just don't feel like working. We all have those moments and that's OK. However, you need to use those days too. When you don't feel like doing research or you are not fit enough, take care of other tasks, such as university administrative tasks, preparing lectures or editing documents.
You might want to try Pomodoro time management technique which consist of work and breaks intervals. It will help you get to work! ;-)
4. Group tasks of the same kind
Sometimes we don't even realize it, but there are several tasks of the same kind, such as meetings, reunions, making phone calls, responding to difficult emails, doing experiments. As much a possible regroup the tasks of the same kind within one day. For instance, regroup all the meetings in one day, and assume that in this day you will not get much research done. However, it would probably save you 2 full days of work. On the other hand, for the tasks that require more of your attention, such as data analysis or writing articles, dedicate to that activity full days 'or half days.
5. Work with the flow
Sometimes when you are working on something, you just feel enticed, and willing to finish or get to some point in your work. You’re in a working “trans”. If you can, use those moments of passion as much as you can. Work goes faster then.
However, do not wait for the moments of flow to start working. It never works like that.
6. Be “pessimist” about time
Be prepared that the tasks you have to do will take more time then you expect.
Very often we plan to do some things quickly, however, in the end, they will take us more time. That concerns the tasks we do for the first time or that you aren't very experienced. Thus it is better to plan more time for those tasks and be positively surprised if they take us less time than another way round.
7. Take breaks
Taking breaks is almost as important as working regularly. Sometimes things just don't work and you have problems staying concentrated. Then leave it and take a break. You cannot be fully focused more than 2 hours, thus for your concentration and work efficiency, it is important to take breaks during your work.
Taking breaks from works also means taking time off the lab, and going for holidays, or at least spending a couple of days off. Making breaks and taking time off will help you keep balanced and makes you work better.