- Weekly Planner (PDF)
Now we’re going to look at the first week of your sprint. I’d like you to print a weekly planner or use a diary for this one. I think it works better as a paper-based activity, but it’s fine to use your usual calendar software. The challenge here is to block out some periods for your PhD during your week. They need to be scheduled in the same way as any other commitment, such as a meeting or a seminar. If other people have access to your online calendar, mark it as a private appointment. Unfortunately, colleagues, students, or family members might think your PhD time is negotiable.
I’m going to use the example of writing, but you might be at a different stage of your PhD. In that case, just substitute it with whatever activity is appropriate for you.
- Block out your immovable commitments, e.g. paid work, medical appointments, family responsibilities. Don’t forget to factor in travel time (unless you have a seat on public transport, you can’t get much done when you’re in transit).
- Now schedule some writing sessions. Don’t be overzealous at first. Setting yourself an ambitious target then failing to meet it is a shortcut to despondency. Maybe schedule a couple of two-hour stints during the week and see how that feels. If that’s easily achievable, you can add some more or extend those sessions. If it was a stretch, wow about revisiting your Eisenhower Matrix and moving some other commitments into Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 4? Or could you start with a couple of one-hour sessions? Think about the best time of day for writing. Are you perkier in the morning? If so, schedule your writing then and leave the undemanding tasks for that mid-afternoon slump.
- Add in some buffers for mundane tasks, such as email and admin. When I’m working on a big project, I always imagine this stuff will somehow get done without my allocating any time. I then get frustrated because it’s eating into the hours when I’m supposed to be creative. Anticipating and allowing for these activities is good for lowering stress levels.
- Allow yourself some fun. You can’t be working at capacity all the time. Scheduled downtime provides an opportunity to recover your energy and enthusiasm and also acts as an incentive.
- Don’t fill every waking moment. Unless you’re one of those ruthlessly efficient people, you’ll soon feel as though you no longer have any control over your life. Even self-imposed regimes can become stifling. Make sure you’ve covered the priorities, and then cut yourself some slack.
If you can’t get your week to work on paper, it won’t work in reality.
We’ll come back to how you use those writing sessions in the next video. For now, we’re just establishing it as a priority — that’s all you have to do.