One of my original plan when making up this page was also to reflect a bit on the “micromanagement” of doing PhD. This is the first post where I want to share the first hack, which belongs to a stable element of my planning routine and progress-tracking.
Managing my own time is something I’m usually not struggling with. It’s is also why I’ve decided to go for a PhD, where one has quite an autonomy and freedom. The huge advantage, speaking for me, which could also be the cause why many PhD candidates fail or have struggles on the way.
Imagining PhD as a journey without a visible to-do list or standardised feedback, I’ve started to look up for ideas on how to go through. It was shortly after my acceptance when I was scrolling through r/PhD and found out a strategy which is being helpful to me.
PhD is huge homework with a due date so far one could hardly imagine his life. Homework, which you have to not only finish but also create and give it some credibility. That’s how I’m explaining to my little sisters why their brother is still going to school.
Ode to the fellow, who was weekly sharing his Goals of the week plan.
Firstly, I thought having weekly plans for the whole research project is not of use for me. But shortly after outlining general strategy what I want to accomplish throughout the four upcoming years, the question of how to actually get this done was quickly the top priority.
That’s when the idea of The Goals of the Week strategy pops up in my head.
The core idea is simple. Try to follow the main goals (in my case it’s 5 milestones for the first year) by reducing it into a small week to week tasks. The Goals of the Week plan is helping with finding those crucial tasks, tracking the progress and reflecting on the bigger picture.
There are 5 short questions to answer from preferably week to week (but it obviously could be any time-span you prefer), focusing on:
- what’s done 👍
- next up 📆
- weekly goals 🗓️
(which I’ve found out to be the essentials and optionally also)
- distractions issues 🎉
- self-care 🏃
Here is the full template:
1. What did you do last week? (Brainstorm everything, but especially congratulate yourself for things that went well, any struggles you overcome. Recognising when you achieve milestones is important.) 2. What does this project need now? 3. Goals for the week: 4. Distractions/Issues/Focus: 5. Self-care: What will you do to ensure you take time off and get away from work?
I have to admit that from the beginning, I didn’t believe it is going to help me anyhow. Anyway, I’ve saved this template to my notes in iPhone and decided to fill it each Sunday evening just out of curiosity.
Not even a month after I’ve realised how amazing such a routine is. Also, it might seem a bit dull, it generates a massive amount of productivity.
Of course, there are weeks when one has to improvise and reschedule his plan, when some task turns out to be more difficult so, I have to stick with it for another few weeks. And that’s ok.
What is really of use, is that plan allows me week by week to focus on things, which really matters, regularly reflect on the progress and see how it respond to the big picture.
The trick here is just to find what really matters and to not stop losing track right after.
I personally prefer to stay up with at max 3 main goals I want to accomplish. It has two reasons why.
Firstly, it is always better to have some extra space for unexpected situations to avoid feeling like a disappointment once some urgent tasks appear. This could negatively influence the motivation to continue, so some flexibility is an asset.
Secondly, it will help to avoid to feel failure with not ticking off all the boxes.
Having ambitious plans is generous, but the idea behind this technique is not about getting things done as fast as possible, but to be always on the track for the long run. Not doing allnighters in a library, but to be persistent instead.
It’s essential being realistic with making up the goals. If I’m done with some tasks quickly, it is not a problem to start with another or to have some time off.
Making up the task list and regular week-to-week evaluation enables to revise what I’ve already accomplished. This, in the end, helps with building the self-confidence and willpower to continue.
It’s always easier to know not only what I want to do, but also be aware of what has been done realising, things are under control.
So to wrap it up. Persistence is the key to success and The Goals of the Week is the way to go. At least for me.