Do you work really hard? Do you make many hours? But do you feel that your goals, which you stipulated probably with your supervisor for the coming year, are not so realistic? And they actually seemed very realistic at the time?
If that is the case, maybe your first thought is that you have to work even harder, or you are questioning yourself if you should maybe pull out. Or perhaps it has crossed your mind to get a normal job, a job, that is not so demanding.
How is that possible?
Apparently, there is a big difference between what you have planned for the whole year and what you are doing on a daily basis.
Of course, it is quite handy to know how to make good planning, however, I have a great tool for you that will help you to diminish the gap between your annual objectives and your actual progress.
The monthly progress monitor invented by Patricia Gosling and Bart Noordam, authors of the book ‘Mastering your PhD’.
How do you use your monthly progress monitor?
Very easy! Every month answer the following 5 questions:
- What are the most important results I obtained the last month?
- Did I deviate from last month’s planning? If so, why?
- What are my most important goals for the coming month?
- What do I have to do to meet these goals?
- What can I do to overcome any hurdles on the way?
Why does this help?
The answers will help you to understand patterns and also help you to prepare meetings with your supervisor
Why these questions?
The first question (What are the most important results I have obtained?) will clarify which were productive activities and which weren’t.
What were the real accomplishments that relate to your research? Which weren’t? When you have that clear, it will be easier for you to prioritize.
The second question (Did I deviate from the planning from last month? And if so, why?) will help you to understand patterns, even more, if you have done so for a couple of months. It can be very confronting to notice that you haven’t succeeded in what you wished for; sometimes it will take some inner research to figure out why you deviated from your planning. Once you can pinpoint that clearly, the solution will appear.
Question 3 (What are my most important goals for the coming month?) will help you to plan more realistically now you have found out the answers to question 2. Be as detailed as possible when you stipulate your goals. ‘To read a little bit more on this subject’ is not a precise goal. You should be far more specific. Ask your supervisor for help or maybe someone who has progressed a bit more.
The fourth and fifth question
Questions 4 and 5 (What do I have to do to meet these goals? And what can I do to overcome any hurdles on the way?) are far more difficult to answer. Probably you won’t find plausible answers. However, even reflecting on your hurdles and how to avoid them is already an effective exercise. It will bring up material to discuss with your supervisor. Trying to stay ahead of the problem is a very rewarding exercise during your PhD but also in your working career later. Thinking about these questions will avoid wasting time and effort. In the end, it will help you to get your PhD successfully and in time!
The more you answer the questions honestly, the more they will help you! So please do: fill in that monthly progress monitor.