Doctoral students are some of the busiest students on campus. The demands of research, classwork, dissertation defense, and personal obligations can be overwhelming. These demands can escalate quickly and easily develop into stress.
It’s easy to burn out trying to fit everything into your daily schedule. However, time management can help you stay organized, reduce stress, and increase productivity.
What’s the importance of time management for doctoral students?
Doctoral programs are intense and demanding, consisting of extensive research, coursework, and writing projects that require considerable time and effort.
Effective time management helps doctoral students complete all these tasks while maintaining a good balance between work, school, family, and personal commitments. It also helps them avoid stress and burnout while working on their thesis.
In this blog post, we share eleven effective time management strategies for doctoral students like you that will help you stay focused and on track to achieving your goals without feeling overwhelmed.
1. Know your key study milestones and their deadlines
The first step towards effective time management is identifying the key milestones in your study life and when to accomplish them.
Understand when your assignments are due, when you must complete your coursework, research, and writing, and when you need to defend your dissertation.
To accomplish this, you can create a milestone planner. Your milestone planner keeps you on track and identifies any upcoming deadlines. This will help you create a plan for when and how you will accomplish these milestones, ensuring that you stay on track and meet all deadlines.
A milestone planner will save you time, relieve pressure and help you to be more organized.
2. Create a weekly schedule to stay on track
Planning your week in advance will also help you manage your time well. As you enter into a new week, spare time to write down your weekly schedule: Create your work plan, listing all your tasks and setting priorities.
Start by allocating specific times for studying, researching, classes, writing your dissertation, and other important activities.
Also, don’t forget to spare time slots for essential activities such as exercise, social interactions, hobbies, and rest. A weekly schedule will help you stay focused, avoid distractions, and ensure enough time to complete all your tasks.
3. Set realistic daily goals and write a to-do list
Setting realistic daily goals and outlining them in a to-do list is another effective way to stay organized and focused.
Every morning before starting the day, write down the essential tasks you need to accomplish and prioritize them based on their urgency and importance. Prioritizing helps improve focus and ensures that each task has adequate time for effective completion.
Cross off items from your list as you go so you don't forget anything important. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to complete all the tasks you have for the day.
4. Utilize calendars, reminders, and task management apps
In today's technology age, many apps and online tools are available to help you manage your time effectively. These include calendars, reminders, and task management apps that can help you stay focused and remind you of upcoming deadlines or appointments.
These tools can help you schedule your time, set deadlines, and send reminders to complete your tasks. As a result, they can help you stay focused and avoid procrastinating tasks, thus improving your productivity.
Some of the best productivity apps for Doctoral students include
- Trello and Asana: For effective task management;
- Todoist and Wunderlist: For creating and managing to-do lists;
- Toggle and Focus To-Do: For Task planning and time-tracking;
- Freedom and StayFocusd: or blocking Distraction;
- Calendly and Google Calendar: or scheduling appointments and setting reminders.
5. Break down big tasks into smaller, manageable chunks
Breaking big tasks into smaller chunks is another proven strategy to help you stay on top of your workload. For instance, instead of tackling an entire dissertation chapter at once, dedicate a few hours of writing to complete a specific section. You can then take a break and come back or the next section.
This technique will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and reduce your stress levels. It will also help you to make steady progress toward your milestones and keep you motivated while at it.
Remember, completing small tasks incrementally will eventually bring down the bigger task without you feeling the pressure.
6. Prioritize tasks by importance and urgency
One of the biggest obstacles to effective time management is trying to do too much at once. To avoid this, always prioritize your tasks based on importance and urgency. Determine which tasks are the most important and urgent and tackle them first.
Urgent tasks are those that require immediate attention, while important tasks are those that align with your long-term goals. By prioritizing tasks, you can focus on what needs to be done first and avoid wasting time on tasks that can wait.
Apps like Trello, Asana, and Todoist can help keep you organized and ensure you make the most of your limited time.
7. Schedule dedicated blocks of time for specific tasks
Once you know your priorities, it’s important to set dedicated blocks of time for accomplishing specific tasks.
For example, allocate a specific time of the day for writing papers, conducting research, reading academic journals, and attending seminars. You can also schedule two hours every morning to write your dissertation or designate Friday afternoons to analyze data.
By scheduling specific blocks of time, you create a routine for your day, which can be very helpful in managing your time. Remember to be realistic about how much time you dedicate to each task and adjust your schedule whenever needed.
8. Schedule breaks for rest and relaxation
Taking breaks is an essential part of effective time management. People who work long hours tend to get tired more easily and lose productivity.
As you create your daily routine, schedule breaks throughout the day to relax and recharge. Whether taking a walk outside, listening to music, or practicing mindfulness meditation, make sure to do something that helps you feel refreshed.
Taking short breaks to rest and relax can recharge your energy levels and increase productivity. Breaks also allow you to assess what you’ve accomplished and plan for what’s pending.
9. Learn to eliminate distractions
Distractions are one of the biggest obstacles to effective time management. From social media notifications and text messages to unnecessary calls, it is easy to get distracted from your work.
The best way to combat distractions is to eliminate them. Once you sit down to accomplish a task, turn off notifications from emails, text messages, social media apps, or anything else that could potentially distract you.
When you start feeling the urge to check your phone or social media, remind yourself that you are focused on your work and will attend to them later.
Alternatively, you can leave your phone in another room to reduce the temptation to check it. You can also install apps or browser extensions that block notifications during designated times, helping you stay focused and on-task.
10. Be flexible and adaptable
No matter how well you plan and organize your day, unexpected events may arise that require flexibility and adjustments. Instead of feeling frustrated and disappointed, learn to adapt to change quickly and be prepared to switch tasks or assignments.
Embrace flexibility as a way of life, creating buffer time whenever possible, and be prepared to adjust if something unexpected arises. This way, you can constantly adjust your schedule to fit the ever-changing demands of your thesis.
However, always be aware of your priorities, so if you switch to another task, it should still be aligned with your main goals and responsibilities.
11. Avoid multitasking
The age-old myth that multitasking is an effective way to complete more tasks in less time is untrue. Actually, multitasking can lead to less productivity and loss of time. It can also lead to more errors and reduce the quality of your work.
As a doctorate student with high demands, try to focus on one task at a time and complete it before starting another.
It can be helpful to use the Pomodoro technique, where you set a timer for 25 minutes, work on one task with complete dedication, and take a small break before moving to the next task. This technique can also help to avoid burnout and keep a clear focus while studying.
Here’s a useful video by Med School Insiders on the Pomodoro technique
Effective time management strategies are essential to the success of any doctoral student. Even if you’re just getting started, take time to implement strategies that will help you maximize your study sessions and prioritize tasks.
This will prevent you from feeling stressed and overwhelmed down the road or giving up before you finish your Ph.D.
You may also find it helpful to connect with a study group for extra motivation and as a support system. If you use the above strategies to plan and manage your time, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle whatever comes your way as you pursue your higher education goals.
And remember, it is alright to seek help. Writers Per Hour can provide you with the Ph.D. writing help you need. Whether it’s a case study, dissertation, research proposal, or some other assignment, we have professional Doctoral writers for hire who can help you with it.
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Last edit at Jul 27 2023