I organised a session for doctoral students at the Instituto de Educação of the Universidade de Lisboa a few weeks ago about how to organise time and work while doing a PhD and I this post is an ‘offspring’ of that session. Click here for the slides.
These were the topics we explored:
- PhD Expectations and motivations
- PhD Typical milestones
- Planning and Managing your PhD (incl. Time management): Goal setting
- Look around for support
1. When you start a PhD, or any other big life project, it is important to think why you’re doing it. What are the reasons, the motivations, the ambitions, the expectations… Namely:
- what do you expect from your supervisor and from yourself?
- what do you expect to happen in each year of your PhD?
- what obstacles do you envisage?
- what are you most looking forward to?
2. There are some typical milestones that seem to be common to most PhD students:
- Establishing foundations:
- defining your research interests and questions
- research methods training
- plan structure of thesis
- background reading
- begin constructing bibliography
- create some ‘keeping track files‘
- start writing
- project presentation/ defence
- Further work
- refine research question(s)
- write literature review
- write about methodology
- submit proposal for conference(s)
- Data collection
- identify and recruit participants
- Data analysis
- create data displays
- make sense of data
- write about data
- Working towards submission
- review recent literature
- writing/ rewriting chapters
- full draft of thesis
- career planning
- editing and proof-reading thesis
- notice of submission/ submission
- Defence preparation
3. Planning and managing work: Goal setting
It is important to have clear goals, that will help you persevere in times you feel stuck, demotivated, overwhelmed, etc…
Think about your key milestones/ objectives on a short/ medium and long term, i.e. what are the key things you want/ need/ expect to achieve within the next 3 / 6 and 12 months?
- You can try use Covey’s (2004) time management’s matrix: what is urgent/ not urgent, what is important/ not important?
It’s also important to think about the way you use you time on a daily basis, how long do you spend sleeping, eating, exercising, commuting, working on your PhD, reading, writing, … can you think of more effective way of using time?
4. Look around for support
Support could come from your supervisor and your peers but there is also a wealth of resources online to be explored. And there are two scholars that I would like to mention here for their online presence and resources are both useful and motivating: