Post#9…PhD tips & tricks Series: time management & Google calendar

First of all, I would like to say that what I am going to propose in this article is helpful for me and could be for someone else. First, I thought I’d list all the little tips & tricks I’ve put in place since my master’s degree. These little tips make my life easier and save me a lot of time daily. I am a very active person, I hardly stay idle, but I like to save time on tasks to be allocated to something else. I must say that I am a very organized person (since I can remember). I think I “always needed a plan” because otherwise, I could not do everything I wanted to do (work, sport, outings, vacations, personal or professional projects).

I would also like to point out that despite all these “organization tips,” I also go through busy work periods, not always very pleasant but from which I manage to keep my head above water.

When I talk with my friends or colleagues over a coffee,

I often hear :

“How do you manage all this?”

“It must take you a lot of time to do this or that…”

“…Supervising a master’s student is a waste of time!”

or “… nobody asks you to do it, why do you do it anyway?”

Well, I will try to give some answers in this article by categories:

Time management & calendar

Agenda grouping:

  • Personnal calendar
  • Professional calendar
  • Academic calendar
  • Shared calendar: family/partner
  • BSc & MSc student’s calendar

Since the beginning of my master I have worked with Google Calendar. It is easy to use, available on several supports, and it allows me to access my personal and professional calendar at any time.

1) I can look at my schedule differently. I prefer the “whole month” display to the weekly or daily format because it gives me an overview of the weeks to come and the time each thing takes. However, I often consult my schedule in a “full-day” format to have the day’s meetings/things to do in mind during my working day.

2) It helps me plan for extensive field or lab work periods, as I’m confronted with the time I thought I would allocate to XYZ task and the time I have available.

3) The color code helps me differentiate/prioritize the different tasks (ok…my agenda looks like a rainbow). Still, as I am a visual person, I appreciate the shortcuts that the colors allow. For example, green is for lab work, red/orange is for urgent things, pink is for vacation, yellow is for sports, and blue is for routine tasks.

4) I check my agenda at the end of each day for the next day so that if I have to prepare/send something or forget a meeting, I still have time to act or plan to plan B… In general, at the beginning/end of each academic year, I take note of all the important dates in the university’s academic calendar (start/end of classes, university vacations, bachelor/master’s degree deadlines, exam periods, thesis submission deadlines (official or unofficial), course dates (if already available) or publication dates of timetables, etc.). Then I add the appointments, my sports lessons, vacation/weekend dates, and personal meetings.

5) I ask the student to fill out a monthly calendar (see templates from Microsoft Excel). Doing this helps them plan the critical steps of their project and write down their project’s deadlines (evaluation, handing in the final manuscript, oral presentation, etc.). In addition, doing this allows them to take a step back and realize how much time they will finally have available for their project. Indeed, between courses, vacation periods, and the exam sessions…the year is already eaten up!

Hope this may help you!



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