One of the biggest foes many students face when writing a PhD thesis is time management.
While it is good to set ambitious goals, the reality is that you cannot overwhelm yourself with more than you can handle in a given time period. Instead, focus on achievable actions by using your time wisely.
Here are some tips on how to manage your time effectively – and make real progress – when writing a PhD thesis:
Make Daily Progress
Many doctoral students believe that setting aside an entire afternoon to write and conduct experiments is the best way to go about working on your PhD thesis.
The downside to this method, however, is the unknown. What if an emergency occurs on the day you intend to do your long afternoon of work and you are pulled away from your desk? Do you have a contingency plan in place to do your work on another day? You never know what can happen, so rather than having one or two days of extended work each week, make a little progress every day. Spend some time each day— two or three hours—focusing on your writing or research. You may even find that you get more done by working in short sprints rather than long marathons.
Keep a To-Do List
Like everyone, you probably have a long list of tasks spinning inside your head that can cause you to become distracted. Distraction often results in lost time that would be better spent working on your PhD thesis. Consider keeping a to-do list — in either a spiral notebook or a mobile application — so that you can dump those distracting to-dos out of your brain and focus on them at a later time.
Do Not Try to Please Your PhD Supervisor
As a good doctoral student, you may feel the need to constantly please your PhD supervisor. While you want to be productive, do not feel as if you need to bend over backwards to make them happy. If you are asked to do a task, do it well instead of quickly, as rushing can lead to errors.
Keep in mind that you must adhere to deadlines, of course, but also remember that your supervisor may not be an expert in your field and therefore not be clear on how long an assignment can take. Always communicate clearly if there have been any unreasonable expectations placed on you.
Have an Accountability Partner
An accountability partner can do wonders for time management. The problem with any graduate programme is that most of the hard deadlines are set many months away, which can make it difficult to get motivated to work on a daily basis. This is where an accountability partner can be useful: a person who can help you stay on track and be supportive in your endeavours can be very motivating. Consider meeting with your PhD supervisor or another student on a regular, informal basis to discuss your progress and big picture goals.
Managing time can be one of the most difficult aspects of working toward a doctoral degree. By implementing some of these tips, you will find that you can complete your PhD thesis with less stress and more free time. Good luck!