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5 Tools for PhD Students to Manage Time & Productivity

If you're working on multiple projects, starting or completing your PhD.

Here are some tools/suggestions that can help you manage your time and productivity and take your research strategy to the next level:

Gantt Chart

1. A Gantt Chart is a project management tool that illustrates a project plan. It has two sections: on the left side, it outlines a list of tasks or projects, and the right side has a timeline with schedule bars that visualize the work for a particular week or month. 

I quite enjoy using the Gantt chart sometimes. I used it often when I was working my schedule on the Monday app. It looks very organized. Yes, at first it may feel intimidating but it's easy to follow.

If you wish to learn more and download a template, I’ve found these two options to be the best:

  1. Simple Gantt Chart
  2. Create an easy Excel Gantt Chart

Gantt Chart

Individual Development Plan (IDP)

2. Individual Development Plan (IDP): this is a tool that will help you with setting short and long-term goals. It also serves as an assistant for career and personal development.

My supervisor recommended to use in the first year of my PhD and it has helped me navigate my research interest and set career goals. You can use it several times according to your interest as often as it changes.

I’ve found ScienceCareers’ IDP to be the best.

IDP Plan Overview, Flow chart

Set SMART Goals

I actually came across the SMART goal-setting framework when I found the individual development plan by ScienceCareers SMART stands for:

  1. S – Specific – Is it focused and unambiguous? 
  2. M – Measurable – Could someone determine whether \you achieved this goal? 
  3. A – Action-oriented – Did you specify the action you will take? 
  4. R – Realistic – Considering difficulty and timeframe, is this goal attainable?
  5. T – Time-bound – Did you specify a deadline? 

Personal planner or journal

It can be a simple digital planner or scientific journal which has dedicated sessions to keep track of your progress and goals. There are many such digital planners and journals that I have mentioned in my previous writing on tools for research.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle isn’t a tool per se, but it is a framework that is helpful nonetheless for research. It’s often known as the 80/20 Rule and states that 20% of your efforts will result in 80% of your results.

It’s all about efficiency

Prioritizing the tasks that result in the bulk of your research is the key to increasing your efficiency.

Level up your research skills

Check out our guide on research strategies. You’ll learn the best ways to conduct research efficiently, so you can save time and remember more of the information you need.

Vrinda Nair

Vrinda Nair is a doctoral student and public scholar at Concordia University, Canada. Her project focuses on antibiotic resistance and aims to find new antibiotic hybrids using deep learning.