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‘Should I first continue working on that article?’ Or should I first research more literature? Do I need an extra experiment? No wait, first finish analysing this one. Oh no; I have a meeting I should attend. I should actually probably prepare for that meeting. And, there’s no room in the lab. So I should just get started with my analysis? But, my supervisor asked for the article..’

These types of thoughts are probably swirling through your mind constantly, every single day. And if you don’t acknowledge this, you can drive yourself completely crazy thinking about all the things you have to do, should be able to get done, and are realistically an option. How do you prioritise your tasks?

One method, adapted from software engineering, can help you with this, the MoSCoW – method.

These letters stand for:

Mmust haves: requirements labelled as Must have are critical to the current project in order for it to be a success

Sshould haves: requirements labelled as Should have are important but not necessary; the finished product will be okay without them

C – could haves: requirements labelled as Could have are desirable but not necessary

Wwould haves: these components are the least critical and probably not appropriate at the time but can be interesting for future research, also called won’t haves

The ‘o’s’ in the acronym don’t stand for anything in particular, but do make it easier to remember.

So thinking about your project in this categorised way: what is a must have, a should have, and a could have or would have, you will have an easier time prioritising your tasks.

You can also take an additional step to make it even simpler. Ask yourself after everything you do: ‘Do I really have to, or would it just be nice to? Is it a ‘must have’ or  a ‘nice to have’?

If you limit yourself to first completing the items you designated as ‘must haves’, I can guarantee you that you will find more room in your schedule. Then, if you know how to control your procrastination, you can feel good at the end of each day when you head home and enjoy your evening.

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