Archives for posts with tag: time management

At a recent ‘Managing yourself and your PhD course’ I asked attendees to list their issues. The second biggest issue was procrastination.

procratination phdsProcrastination can be defined as “to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.” [1] and that’s certainly a problem!

Why do we deliberately not do what we know we should be doing even if it causes us pain?

We end up being stressed, feeling guilty, in a worse situation and gain disapproval from others. This makes it even harder to do anything and can become a downward spiral.

It is basically “a breakdown in our Self Control. You know what you ought to do and you’re not able to bring yourself to do it. It’s that gap between intention and action.” [2]

So how can we overcome it? Top tips include:

1.Have a plan. Now that you don’t have ‘classes’ you have to structure your own time. I tumblr_inline_mjbjohnZlb1qz4rgpnoticed that the biggest issue that PhD students mentioned was all about how to plan and manage activities. If you do not have a plan you will not know where to start and you will not have prioritised your work. Break your work down into sections and tasks. Then make a weekly plan of what you need to do. A daily plan is even better, a to do list might help!

2. Track your progress to help keep motivated. Mark things off as you complete them and don’t be afraid to move things round if you get blocked on one of your tasks e.g. perhaps you need to clarify something with your supervisor. Start the next task instead and then come back to the one that was blocked later on. Seeing your progress will help you feel that you are achieving and keep you on track.

3.Create an environment that suits how you work and remove as many distractions as possible. Be especially aware of digital distractions! Keep off social media and do not keep checking your emails. Make sure you have everything you need, e.g. stapler and staples etc and keep your work space organised so you can find things easily. Check your posture and your computer height, brightness etc to make sure you are comfortable and not creating back pain etc

4.Take breaks. Research takes a lot of focus so you need to take regular breaks to help your mind come back refreshed. Do your work in slots and then have a break e.g. I will read three research articles/write my abstract then I will have a break.

5.Keep your work within working hours and have a home/social life. You are not effective if you work long hours.

6.Ask for help if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask others to help when you get stuck. Better to admit you do not know something than waste valuable time. Others are usually only too willing to help. Make sure you make the most of supervisory meetings by listing the things you need to know or resources you need to access etc so that you can make sure you get what you need and when you need it.

If anyone else has any tips on what works for them then please feel free to comment below:


[1] Steel, Piers (2007). “The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure”. Psychological Bulletin 133 (1): 65–94. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.65. PMID 17201571.

[2] Dr Andrew Dobson

[3] Image

[4] Image


Over the weekend, my social media accounts were packed  with:

spring forward               Read the rest of this entry »


As I stare lovingly at my neat, prioritised To Do list, I allow myself to bathe in the warm, smug  glow of time well-managed. Stephen Covey would be proud. Except, of course, on further inspection, my “write blog post” task has slowly crept from the ideal of quadrant two, with all its promise of thoughtful, creative work, towards the screeching deadlines of quadrant one.quadrants

The thing is, I know how to prioritise my time; I run workshops to help other people manage their workloads and prioritise their tasks. But sometimes, well, stuff happens (right?!), and you find yourself spending your time increasingly on “urgent, important” tasks and “urgent, unimportant” things, unable to give enough time and attention to the important, meaningful parts of your work. Unless, frankly, you have magic powers, this will happen to all of us from time to time, but if it goes on for too long, it starts to become the norm, with more and more of your once important but not urgent work creeping towards the red zone. Read the rest of this entry »

girls in rainWalking to work this morning, in the rain, I was trying to think of something to write for my blog post and the phrase ‘when it rains, it pours’ kept playing over in my mind. For many of us, it really does seem to be the case at work especially that your workload is not a steady flow but a torrential downpour of tasks. You find yourself rushing to finish that presentation for the conference in a couple of days’ time, when a journal review lands in your inbox that you know you can’t say no to. You also have that paper that still needs finishing, portfolio to finish for your Higher Education Academy submission, a million actions to complete from a variety of committee meetings and that’s on top of balancing your ‘day job’ work. If this isn’t enough, home life seems no less hectic. Your kids have such a busy social/hobby/homework demands they could do with their own PA, someone in your extended family isn’t well, you foolishly decided to have some renovation work done to your house and you daren’t open the spare bedroom door for fear of being consumed by the tidal wave of ironing threatening to engulf you. It’s enough to make you feel like dropping all the juggling balls and running in the opposite direction. Read the rest of this entry »

A guest post from Dr Vera Lukashchuk, a research associate from the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience.

If you have ever felt like you are not using your time effectively, that you are not progressing in your job as fast as you wish to, and that you may be ignoring the importance of the work/life balance, then read on…

In March 2015, Think Ahead ran a brilliant workshop called ‘How to be an Effective Researcher’ aimed to help you resolve or at the very least recognise all of these and other issues in yourself. The workshop delivered by Caron King from Mindset Methods consisted of two very dynamic days dedicated to providing an insight into strategies for successful project design and management, and working effectively to deliver results. I walked in there open-minded, and very aware of the fact that I would have to challenge my introverted nature and interact with people I’d just met, full-time for two days straight. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh, okay, not THAT one...

         Oh, okay, not that one…

You may not have heard of Hofstadter’s Law; I hadn’t until, as I sat, staring wretchedly at the expanse of white on my computer screen, I fell back into one of my favourite, if not most useful, writer’s block activities – namely, mashing my keyboard, trying to shake answers to life’s great questions out of my search engine:


Oh, come on, you’ve all done it……right?

Read the rest of this entry »