2: Managing Time

Establishing Systems of Organization

  • Set up a filing system to organize your materials—don’t discard anything.
  • Set up a calendar system with major deadlines visible and clearly spelled out. Although you will rarely meet the originally established deadlines in an exact fashion and must revise them (for various reasons), a master time plan may help you avoid the “no-end-in- sight” syndrome so common to the PhD student. Start researching topics early and everywhere: keep an investigator’s journal where you jot down notes, ideas, thoughts, etc.
  • Set up a log to chart your hourly/daily progress. This could be a running time sheet of hours spent in the office, library, field, etc. Such a log is important in its own right as a motivator and will play a part when you periodically review your progress, or have to rebudget your time in light of outside demands or new phases of your work.

Managing and Using Technologies

  • In addition to establishing “physical” or “material” organizational systems, establishing and maintaining a simple and organized computer file system is incredibly important with so many digital notes, handouts, presentations, readings, and written texts living in our computers. Clearly and specifically name and date your files and folders.
  • Save each revision to a text with the day’s date added so you don’t lose your previous versions.

Facing Limited Resources of Time and Money

  • Apply for fellowships—not only are these opportunities for money and research experience, but the application process itself usually asks you to write personal research statements. Reflecting on your work in these statements can be reassuring and productive for future work.
  • Develop daily and weekly task lists in which you identify the tasks that NEED to get done, that SHOULD get done, and that you WANT to get done. Don’t limit these to work tasks, but include other daily activities such as chores, errands, lunches, and fun.
  • Rethink your conceptions of time. Consider breaking your day up into small pieces of time and dedicate those pieces to the work activities you need to finish and the other time requirements of your day, leaving a few blocks open for yourself.

Fighting Procrastination

  • Think about deadlines: Do they help your production or does the stress of them hinder your progress? Do you rely on others to set deadlines or do you set them for yourselves? How might you use deadlines to help you fight against procrastination?