Doing a PhD requires good discipline and an even better time management system. When your tasks align with your goals, you have time to both focus on your thesis and have a social life.
We’ve interviewed Elena Watts during her final PhD year at Imperial College London to find out how she plans out a week in her student life to give you helpful tips.
It’s more than just time management
Elena has been using Grids to manage her time after she attended one of our PhD Success Worskhops. The four Grid quadrants offer her a no-nonsense way of structuring her:
- PhD work,
- meetings from her personal life,
- business career development – Elena is currently looking to start a spin-out company based on her PhD work,
- time off with her puppy.
Completing her PhD write up, she signed up to the workshop while looking for a better time management tool, but she says Grid is much more than that, for her.
“It encourages you to really think about what you want in your life.”Elena Watts
Elena can clearly see whether her studies overtake her personal life by keeping track of the highlighted tasks she’s done. Doing a bit from “every Grid quadrant, you can see how your plans affect each other. They’re all entwined,” she says.
Elena took the gridding technique a step further by assigning meanings to different highlighter colors. This can be helpful if you’re looking to keep track of what you achieve each day. Conversely, you could differentiate your meetings from other tasks with a bright orange, like she has.
The Gridding process
Elena told us she moves to a quiet space before a new week starts, taking time to sit and think about her goals. She names the Visualisation Task from the Grid book as her aid in constructing the week’s quadrants.
We agree on the importance introspection has when setting up your weekly tasks. Sadly, this step is often forgotten by most To-Do list doers. Elena picked up on this, and her Gridding process is filled with focus that reflects her creative mind as much as Elena’s spirit as a young woman.
I’m spending more time thinking about aspects of my wellness and lifestyle. Before Grid, I wasn’t balancing my life in the way I should be. Now, every day, I can see where my focus needs to go. Because I externalise it and write it down, it’s a constant reminder of the things that I have already decided that are important to me.Elena Watts
Reflecting on her PhD and Grid in one sentence
We’ve asked Elena to sum up her experience using the Grid method in one sentence. These are her thoughts:
It’s a holistic organisational tool which, if you use in a meaningful way, can help you to achieve the things that you really value.Elena Watts
Time management resources
If you’re a young professional, PhD student, or a budding entrepreneur like Elena you will no doubt need a system to keep you organized, on track and calm! We invite you to explore the Grid method, like she did.
You can start from scratch with our Grid Introduction Training – this is an immersive, self-paced online course designed to walk you through the Grid basics, help you set excellent foundations with helpful worksheets and get you on your way to managing your aspirations in a creative, yet organized manner. We’ve got a blog that details the course here.
If you’re more comfortable with reading or listening, Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier’s Get Productive: Grid book is another great way to get started with the Grid method. Both the course and book are suitable for first-time Grid users, but each has unique exercises and different content. If you’re unsure which to choose, you can always sign up to our Grid Clinic or join the Grid Community Group on Facebook.
Let’s face it. It’s never too late or too early to focus on being well and doing well. At Make Time Count, we’re dedicated to helping you with that. The rest is up to you!