PhD Time Management

There’s so much out there! From the articles I find online on various websites, and the books I see on Audible, Google Scholar and Amazon, to the inspiring projects and ideas from Youtube videos, it often proves challenging to manage everything that I come across in a way that makes it easy for me to access and embed into my work later on. Organising my resources in an effective way saves a lot of time especially when I have to access it in the future. This article is about PhD time management, but will focus on the day-to-day aspects of managing the various resources that I need as a PhD student, which will include an app that I use, communication with others, and planning for the coming week.

Keep (From Desktop to Phone)

“Are You Talking To Yourself?”

“No, I’m taking a voice note, so I don’t have to type (which is too slow to capture this sudden stream of thought).”

I was asked this by a colleague today in the kitchen as we lined up to microwave food. Even as the words I spoke appeared on my phone screen, I felt a bit crazy doing it.

So far, my go to tool for managing and accessing the myriad sources of knowledge out there is unmistakably Google Keep. It used to be Pocket, but today that’s where I save my non-PhD related articles. Since I often seamlessly move between my phone, laptop, and desktop, it can prove challenging to keep track of the resources I need. I’ve been using Google’s Keep app to write fragments of thoughts, add quick mini notes, jot down ideas, save websites and videos, and even take voice notes.

Conceptual Framework

As I often use Google Docs to write initial drafts of my thesis, and the way in which it integrates with other apps is amazing. I’m currently writing the section on my conceptual framework that will guide my study, and I thought of making a quick sketch that I can paste into my word document. I quickly open the Keep app on my phone, draw the initial sketch, and then refresh the Keep app on my desktop and just drag the image into my word document. It’s amazing like that. So seamless! A simple image I know, but something that enables me to think and rethink how I’m structuring my study.

Google Keep and managing resources

Day-to-day

The simplicity the app provides to do things that seamlessly connect my laptop, desktop and mobile phone experience is beautifully impressive. This app was made for millennials like me: simple to use and ubiquitously present whenever needed! Like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, you can post thoughts, ideas, photos, and various other documents, on your phone or a desktop computer. Additionally, you can also tag different posts, so that a search for #PhD in the app or accompanying website, returns all my videos, voice and text notes, drawings or even pictures with that tag; all magically synced when updated online or on my phone. This grouping is immensely useful because of the dozens of posts I’ve made which can be difficult to navigate.

One way I use it is to quickly jot down ideas for blog posts on my phone when I’m on a train or bus for instance. And then when I’m ready to type it out, I simply type “K” into the browser on my laptop/desktop, and then copy whatever I have from there into the editor for my blog. And the rest is history.

PhD Supervisor & Colleagues

In email communication with my supervisor, I find that being open about what I’m doing and where I need help enables me to get advice that benefits my study. I think showing enthusiasm about my study is also beneficial. Initiative and being engaged in readings enables them to suggest other areas of reading as well. I often get suggestions of sites to visit, or other thesis documents to read to supplement what I’m doing. This helps as I can easily miss something important.

The Coming Week

On Sundays, I take some time to prepare for the week ahead. I start by looking at any classes that may prove useful to broadening my skills. The last two weeks, I’ve been in some career planning sessions which is getting me to be think proactively about my career after a PhD, now rather than later.

I also look at any notes my supervisor has made from our monthly meetings, and make plans on how I can incorporate them in the coming week with my broader research plan in mind. This week, I am to think about developing my research questions further. I also realise I need to do some more reading from ‘refugee’ journals. So these two will be my focus for the week. Keep even lets me set reminders that I can tick off as I go along! Knowing what my focus is, I look forward to tomorrow, Monday. Now where’s that audiobook I need to finish?