Time Management Tips for PhD Students

This blog post needs no introduction. If you are a grad student, time always feels scarce . I often feel like I don’t have enough time. My only option then is to make the most efficient and effective use of what I do have. Here are my top ten tips for making the most out of my time.

1: Set up an online to do list

There are many online to do lists available these days that can help keep you organize. Todist, Wunderlist and Trello are a few examples. My go to is Trello and I have written a  post about how I use it to organize my time, you can read about it here.  I also have an instagram video (IGTV) on it here

2: Brain dump

Is it just me or does anyone else have about a million thoughts per second? The app, Trello, allows me to brain dump all of the things running through my mind (don’t forget to call my sister back, get milk and eggs from the store tomorrow, don’t forget to read more about Bourdieu..). Each day, I make a list where I dump this information so that I can leave it and come back to it at the end of the day. This way I feel a sense of freedom throughout the day and a sense of calm after I have organized all the information. It takes the pressure off me needing to remember everything.

3: Constantly prioritize 

I make a to do list every day for the week ahead. I am constantly reassessing the urgency of each task and prioritizing the most important. Trello allows these tasks to be flexible so I can easily move them around day to day, week to week or month to month. By prioritizing items, I am able to assess where I need to give my full attention and where I can give less energy. I have learned that I do my best work in the morning, therefore my hardest, most important tasks are completed at the beginning of the day.

4: Batch your work 

I am currently working on two major tasks; my qualifying exams (QE’s) and a major research project. I find that batching my work allows me to focus more intently on the larger goal. Therefore, specific days will be designated to either my QE’s, the research project, admin work or meetings. If possible, I will try and batch these days back to back in order to continue any flow from the day before.

5: Utilize calendars

I utilize all my calendars to their full potential. I like to use these large stick on calendars in my office (easy to peel on and off) to give me a quick visual. However, I also use iCal for more specific details and that is linked to my mac and iPhone. It allows me to colour coordinate by tasks. It also allows me to share specific calendars with my loved ones. I have one with my partner, as well as another one with my mom, sister and best friend. You can read more about how to sync this calendar on my blog post here


6: Pomodoro Technique 

For those who know me, know that I love using the pomodoro technique. I have written all about this technique here . The two products that help me stick to this method are my productivity planner and my timer.

7: Non-distracting environment 

All these organization tools are excellent, however when it comes down to the work if I am distracted, I am not going to get the work done. I make sure that I turn off notifications on my phone and e-mail. And sometimes go as far as putting my phone in another room. Grab a tea, put some essential oils in your diffuser, whatever you need to do to create a calm and non distracting environment.

8: Schedule time off 

This may seem contradictory, how does taking time off help you be productive? Firstly, the idea of knowing I have some time off in my future gives me an instant relief. Secondly, when I make a conscious effort to  take time off (and I mean actual time off, stepping away from e-mail completely) I notice a huge difference in my thought process, creativity and productivity.

9: Create routines

What are the things that make you feel your best? For me, that is exercise, sleep and eating healthy. So it’s simple, I include them in my daily routines. I need these things in order to do my best work and in order to enjoy my work. Prioritize your health, prioritize YOU.

10: Enjoy

Lastly, let’s not take our calendar and to do lists too seriously. It is easy to get wrapped up on  being productive but don’t forget to enjoy these moments when you are in them.  How can you enjoy these tasks more?


Now, I’m curious to hear what are your time management techqniues?

Were there any similar to mine?

Comment below! I would love to hear them.

Until next time,

Christine xo

P.S Don’t forget to use #ScholarCulture #ScholarSquad to keep me updated on your experiences as grad students.

P.P.S Applying to grad school for the 2020/21 school year? Check out this FREE eBook on 5 steps to a successful grad school application. Are you in grad school and struggling to find easy lunches to bring to campus? Check out three FREE recipes and full nutritional information here.


4 responses to “Time Management Tips for PhD Students”

  1. Sequoia

    I really enjoyed reading this blog. I too also use the Pomodoro technique when I need to focus on the task at hand. It has been extremely helpful.
    I have never used nor heard of Trello before. I began using an app on my computer as a to do list for things non-school and non-work related. But it only helps to a certain extent as far as organizing goes. But after looking at the link you posted to learn more about Trello, I’m going to start using it for everything. Like you though, I do still plan to use my written planner and calendar on my phone to make sure that I’m on task while away from my computer.

    1. Scholar Culture

      I am so glad you enjoyed reading the blog and learned more about how to utilize Trello! I hope it helps you in all your tasks. Thanks so much for sharing what helps you in your time management. It is so interesting to hear what others do to organize their time.

  2. Kimberly Samuels

    Thank you so much for taking the time to provide time management tips. This was so helpful!!!

    1. Scholar Culture

      So glad it is helpful! All the best with your studies.

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