Thoughts on time management (PhD year 2)

I’ve never really considered myself to be bad at time management because I always get important things done on time without too much stress at the last minute. I think I have never pulled an allnighter without any sleep whatsoever, and the times that an allnighter seemed necessary, I gave up around 2AM, slept for 3 or 4 hours and finished the job by the time I had to be at school or university.

I finished my ICPR paper 2 weeks before the deadline. By a coincidence, an opportunity came up to work together with another PhD student on a different paper, which was no problem. I’m not the first author so it’s not as much work, but the subject inspired me to do some other experiments, probably enough for a whole other (ICPR, 4 page) paper.

In terms of deadlines this might sound like good time management, but I am guessing it’s not. I like writing papers and doing experiments, and I have a good idea of what steps are needed for a paper or experiment to be “done”. However, bigger and more abstract things that are on my todo list, such as using a more fundamental approach to a problem, are not as easy to define and to plan. Therefore there are also no strict deadlines, and side projects with deadlines can win quite easily in case of time constraints.

The past few weeks I have tried to spend more time on such a question by planning this beforehand (I have “slots of time” that I can work on something), or even trying to plan my approach by splitting up a big question into several smaller ones. The time slots thing was quite effective in the sense that I actually did spend time on it (even though it was usually less than the time slot, because I got carried away by papers or experiments). The fundamental approach also did not have any results and only got me more confused, so that did not particularly help. Splitting the questions up was less effective, because I actually could not come up with something logical. It did get me to think about the problem more, which is a good thing. I suppose I need more time to get better at this 🙂

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