Previously, I have been writing about different tools and approaches I use to manage my time. Today’s post aims at bringing this information together, and showing you the system I use. Hopefully, you can find some elements in here to help you better manage your time.
1. Tools for planning
As a PhD research project requires 4 years of time to plan, I have geared most of my efforts towards optimizing my planning tools. I split up my planning from the general overview, down to the daily task lists:
– The general overview
Now that I’m writing up my thesis, I need the right tools to plan for this.
I am keeping the general overview in a Google Calender document which I titled “Roadmap to thesis defense”, marking in which week I should be working on which chapter.
– To Do lists
I keep different lists: a list with research ideas, a list with deadlines, and monthly and weekly to dos. All these are saved in Word documents. Every Friday, I plan out the next week (and month, when the time is there). That precise moment also serves as a moment to reflect on my progress and to ask myself why or why not I met my goals for this week; a method inspired by the monthly progress monitor.
– Daily appointments
Rather old-fashioned, but I keep my day-to-day appointments in a paper-and-pen type of planner. (It’s bound in red leather with a pattern of roses on it, if that explains why I can’t switch to a digital version). I write down my most important task(s) for the day, and have all my appointments written down and planned. Also, I write down my To Do list for the evening at the very bottom of the day page.
2. Tools for tracking
In the first months of my research, I was surprised to discover how much time was slipping away and how little net worth can be left of the 40 hours I’m supposed to have allotted for research. Therefore, I started tracking, and I discovered that -in the days when I was working on my experiments- I would easily spend an hour to go help a hand in the lab, or to arrange things or move around objectives in my planning. Also, I started tracking how I spend my time on the computer, confirming that I was not spending my time optimally. The tools I use for this are ManicTime and RescueTime.
When I have a lot on my mind, I tend to click away the minutes on the internet – nowadays, I have Leechblock on my office computer to keep me from social networking sites during 8:30am and 5pm (I still use my phone for these though).
3. Tools for reminding
This part still needs some improvement. I keep an overview of paper deadlines in a simple Word file, and I write these down in my paper planner. If I need to remind myself of something small, I just place a reminder in my phone. Even though I don’t really need reminders (I typically remember things naturally), I do think that improving this part of my system would free some space in my head.
What does your time management system look like? Do you use a system at all, or do you prefer to work randomly?