Before last February, I used to feel a sort of panic on Friday afternoons, thinking: “Oh no, this is the end of the week, and I have done so little!”
What I changed last February is that I started to make different levels of To Do lists. I used to go with one list, and that worked perfectly fine as long as I was attending school and finishing classes at the end of every semester. With something as vast as a PhD-project, that didn’t really seem to work for me though. The list kept growing, and my sense of panic grew alongside it as well.
My different levels of To Do list are the following:
1. General research ideas
This is my little goldmine of research ideas, that might keep me busy for quite some time after I graduate, provided that I can stay in academics/research; or ideas that could work for a master’s thesis. There’s no timeline attached to these, I just keep this file as a source of ideas.
2. To Do list
This to do list consists of well-defined small projects that need to be done by a certain month or date. It includes for example the deadlines for conference papers which are a few months ahead, or the next few parameter studies I would like to carry out.
3. To Do in Month X
Very clear: the list of what I need to get done this month. I subdivide it in a few categories, and try to be as realistic as possible.
4. To Do in Week Y
About a quarter of the contents of To Do in Month X goes into my To Do in Week Y. I then take my planner and write down per day what I should focus on: testing 1,2 on day 1, testing 3 on day 2 along with reading paper z and so on.
At the end of the week, on Friday afternoon, I review again my weekly and monthly documents, add what I have done, and see what still needs to be done… and usually leave my office with quite a sense of accomplishment.