PhD – Back to School

Hello:

I hope you are all enjoying the fall semester!

Do any of you have any tricks of the trade for making time to still do research in the midst of a frantic semester?

My schedule has conveniently worked out where I don’t teach or take classes on Thursdays so I try to devote the day primarily to doing research. However, I find that my research often spills over to other days when I don’t have as busy of a workload, especially Saturdays. This method has worked for me so far, but I am wondering the balance that you are all finding between research and school – especially those of you who have families. Do you find that you are more productive when you are working on research in smaller dosages or in bigger chunks of time?

Please share your secrets as to what has helped you be the most productive lately!

–Valerie

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3 Responses

  1. What has helped me the most is to dedicate at least 2-3 days a week for doing only research, no matter what. It’s difficult with all the distractions but I think if you are determined to stick to this plan it will really pay off.

  2. I’ve found that working in 2.5 hour chunks is best. It’s long enough to get some serious work done, short enough to not go crazy. Even on days when I have meetings or teaching, I can find a 2.5 hour chunk to use for research. I travel a lot, and it’s also the amount of time I can realistically work on a Detroit – LA or Detroit – Seattle flight. I’ve gotten pretty good at making To Do lists that use that time frame. I found myself having to re-do work I did in the later part of longer stints; I just can’t be “on” for much longer than two and a half hours without at least needing to get up and walk around. You might also find 2.5 hours about the right length for a couple of games of Madden or a movie, too, so it’s also a good length for a real break.

    Using chunks of time that are this short requires some serious discipline though. Those To Do lists are clutch. I use Remember the Milk (http://www.rememberthemilk.com) to keep my lists, and I have one for each of my research projects, teaching, and personal stuff. So, for any 2.5 hour chunk, I can look at just one list, “Dissertation” for instance, and work on stuff only from there. Seeing everything I need to get done in one list is overwhelming and paralyzing, so I need to divide my lists into smaller chunks too. All these exercises in dividing time and tasks into smaller chunks does wonders for my perceptions too; they’re all bite-sized and manageable. Slow and steady wins the race, etc.

    Of course, I’m not as rigid with my time chunks as this comment sounds, but at least I have a goal. It’s worked really well for me for the last 5 months or so.

  3. I try and prioritize my work and make sure I get class work done first. Once I clear that out of the way, I make myself spend at least 15-30 minutes a day on research. obviously, some stages of research require longer time chunks than that. I think the important thing is to keep chipping away at the work and never give up. Fight the good fight 🙂

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