|Oh, time. Source|
It seems obvious when you stop to think about it: if you can plan your time effectively you can have both worlds! If you just work at 100% efficiency for every minute that you're at work you can go home at 5:00 pm and spend the rest of the night with your family! But that's not the reality. Science is not easy and experiments and writing always seem to take longer than they should. There is some truth there though: time management IS very important to achieve any sort of balance.
The summer before I started graduate school, I read the book Mastering Your PhD and started thinking more about time management. The authors suggest creating a Monthly Progress Monitor** to plan your experiments and goals for each month, assess what goals you accomplished the previous month, and using it as a discussion point with your advisor. They even provide a template which I handily recreated and began using my very first month.
|This is what my brain feels like when an |
experiment takes longer than I planned for. Source
So, you know, take it with a grain of salt. Different things work for different people.
What prompted me to write this post tonight was another time management goal I've had since before I started graduate school: getting home on time. It follows that if you're not great at planning what you can get done in one month you might not be so great at estimating the time to takes to get things done in one day. It seems like every time I text my son to tell him when I'm going to be home... it ends up being later than that. Sometimes a lot later. Every once in awhile that's okay but when it seemed to be happening all the time I really needed to try to get better at it. The last two nights I actually got home within 5 min of the time I told him. I'm proud of this. It's a little thing but it means a lot to me. I want to be able to be home when I say I'm going to be. I want to be able to spend time with my son. I love science but it's not the only important part of my life.
Tell me in the comments what your productivity tips are. Do you use the Pomodoro approach? Or the Getting Things Done method? Do you plan everything far in advance? Do you have a secret method that you're willing to share?
*I prefer to call it work/ home balance because c'mon, it's ALL life, but even work/ home becomes blurry when you have to bring your work home with you.
**They also suggested mapping out your dissertation outline as soon as possible and I planned to do this in my first semester. Um, I just finally did that last month.
***It's also been very helpful for remembering when I did something and what the details were. "Oh yeah, I called tech support and talked to Ryan and he said to try this." I am a huge fan of the search function.