It is hard for many PhD students to make a good planning. I would like to give you some tips to help you.
1. Never plan more than 80% of your time
The rest of the time will be filled with unexpected events and normal things in life; a colleague who walks in for a chat, the meeting that takes longer than planned, the trouble you are having doing a specific project.
2. Are you clear about the tasks you have to do and how these tasks are maybe related to one another?
Picture that for yourself. Break down bigger tasks into smaller ones. For example, you can split up writing an article into the following parts:
– summarize your literature
– form the text structure
– write down contents
– create lists
– draw up a list of used literature
– revise and correct text
– discuss your text with others
– rewrite according to received comments
Do realize that you have tasks that have to do with research, but also with other aspects of your work (teaching, meetings, organising visits) and with your personal life.
Question yourself what tasks you have in the different phases of your research.
3. Plan backwards.
When is your deadline? From that point, you schedule your tasks. In case of writing a paper for a congress, for instance, you probably have to present your paper way in advance, you need time to rewrite some comments, you can’t write full time, your abstract needs to be approved, you need data for the contents of your article, and so on! Make sure you are aware of all your tasks and plan them in your schedule. You will notice that you need more time for certain tasks than you would have guessed. In case of writing a paper for a congress, it is important to discuss with your promotor about a year (!) in advance if it would be a good idea to write an abstract and a paper. You really need your time!
4. Use the ‘Eisenhower-model’
The American President Eisenhower supposedly stated that the most urgent problems rarely are the most important ones. Eisenhower was seen as a real master in time management: doing the right things at the right time. By using the Eisenhower-method you will learn how to distinguish between important and urgent matters. It doesn’t matter what you have to do: always use the Eisenhower-model and then decide what to do when.
Most of the time we focus on the things that have to be done straight away. But when do you give yourself time to handle the important tasks first before they become urgent?
5. Use the Warren Buffet-method
According to Warren Buffet, a multi-billionaire, the following strategy is a great way to plan your time: make a list of everything you want to do today. Start with the task at the top of your list and only move on to the next one once you finished the first one. Once finished, you can strike the completed one out.
And maybe the most important thing: be realistic in your planning. Nothing is more frustrating than having more to do than you actually are capable of doing. Keep that in mind.
If you want to approach summer in a relaxed way: make a plan that will help you to effectively complete your tasks! If you want to read more on planning, have a look at this blog.
Let me know when you have succeeded.