Grad school is an awesome but sometimes strange time of life. One of the biggest changes from undergrad is that timelines expand, and you get to a lot more latitude to make your own schedule. This can be liberating but it can also be disconcerting.

During a lab meeting, we came up with a few time management tricks to help make grad school easier. Here they are:

  1. If you can, try to work steadily rather than in fits and starts. It’s way more efficient. But also take some vacation time when you’re totally away from work. Vacations are crucial, for many reasons.
  2. Sleep, exercise, having a hobby and social time are also really important. If you can follow point 1 above, hopefully you won’t run into situations where you have to make any real sacrifices in these.
  3. Try to work with your body’s rhythms. Schedule your day so when you’re at your most awake and aware, you’re writing or doing stats. And save the mundane tasks for when you’re in a low ebb.
  4. Block off a certain amount of time each day to do the hardest thing you have going at the time –  the thing you find most annoying. That’ll help prevent procrastinating.
  5. Somewhere prominent in your office space, put up a sheet of the main questions and goals from each of your chapters. These will evolve for sure, but having them written down in one spot can help you make you’re not spending tonnes of time on one small aspect.
  6. Similar to above, keep a spreadsheet of all your projects (including side projects), and who your collaborators are for each. Keep track of the hours you’re working on each project, even if only in a vague way. This will help prevent you from sinking masses of time into a project that might not be working out for you.
  7. Check in with your supervisor fairly regularly, to make sure they’re on the same page as you re how your work is going. Sometimes you can get so close to your work you don’t realize you may be spinning your wheels on an unimportant detail.
  8. Take small breaks to avoid burnout. If you have a short attention span (like Joe does…), then use the bits of time when your mind wanders to do something somewhat productive – like searching for papers, answering some routine emails, or updating your academic social media…
  9. …but don’t get sucked into constantly updating your academic social media…
  10. …or ruminating over replies to routine emails. If it’s routine, then just worry about the content rather than the prose, and send it.