Medical Biophysics Graduate Student Association


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Do You Want To Finish Your Degree Faster? Read This

[Photo credit: Angie♥Nan]

I'm obsessed with time management... better yet, I have a constant fear of wasting time. I must say that I have read enough self-help books and articles on the topic that I think I have seen all tricks. Therefore, I have come to the realization that I will never be 100% efficient. But for some of you out there hope is still alive.

Did you know that practicing good time management skills helps to manage stress? Actually it depends on your personality. While for some of you coming face to face with a 50-item To-Do list might give you high blood pressure, for others having a good grasp on the tasks at hand in the form of a nice spreadsheet, gantt chart, or notepad will give you a sense of relief and yoga-like calm, as though Nirvana embraced your whole cubicle and a voice whispered "Everything will be OK I'm here now". So as some of you made the transition from undergraduate to graduate work, or you are just trying to finish up your thesis, or even better you right in the middle and think you have all the time in the world, here some time management strategies that worked for me over the past few years.

Get organized! Duh?! Spending time looking for stuff it's a huge time waster. Get a paper reference manager, or stack all your papers neatly in dividers. If you want to get fancy, divide your course material, papers, thesis ideas by date, topic, category, etc...

Create To-Do Lists. I'm the master of To-Do lists. Get the tools that you need, whatever they are and stick to them. Late professor Randy Pausch remains my idol in this area. Search for his talk called "Time management", it will open your eyes and you'll learn some fancy techniques on how to prioritize your time and to-do lists.

Remove distractions. It's hard to stay away from your favourite website or RSS feed. I recommend some automatic blocking program. There are plenty out there that will act as your watchdog and block all your favourite websites and chatting applications.

Take breaks! You don't want to burn out, remember you always want re-energize your brain. Plus where is the fun if sometimes you don't stop and smell the roses or the Petri dishes.

Track your time. This simple exercise will tell you exactly where you wasted most of your time and when you had the most progress. A hybrid form of this is something that I've been doing since the Maters; I keep a "research diary", nothing fancy, just a text file that I try to update daily by adding 2/3 lines of what I've done. I'm able to track my research progress over time, and when I feel as though I've been lacking in productivity it reminds me that I've actually done some work.

Got any tips? Don't be stingy share it with us in the comment section!