Thursday, June 23, 2016

I am Amanda Sewell and This is How I Work

Today, I am inviting Amanda Sewell to the "How I Work" series. Amanda is a freelance academic editor in Michigan (USA). Amanda holds a Ph.D. in musicology from Indiana University, and her scholarship has been published in the Journal of the Society for American Music and the Journal of Popular Music Studies. She also contributed a chapter on nerdcore hip-hop to the recently-published Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop. Additionally, Amanda is a part-time classical music host on Interlochen Public Radio. Check out her website, facebook, Twitter account and profiles.

Current Job: academic editor
Current Location: Traverse City, MI, USA
Current mobile device: iPhone 6
Current computer: Asus Zenbook

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I received my Ph.D. in musicology from Indiana University in 2013 and chose to go into business for myself as an academic editor. As an editor, I work with individual clients on their articles, dissertations, and academic book manuscripts, and I also perform contract work for various academic presses, including W. W. Norton and Oxford University Press. I do everything from proofreading and copy editing (adding commas or helping non-native English speakers sound more like native speakers) to developmental editing (aiding researchers in revising the direction, tone, or content of their projects).

As fate would have it, I wound up living ten miles from the Interlochen Arts Academy, one of the most respected institutions in the United States for training young musicians and artists. I now work part-time at Interlochen Public Radio as a classical music host, and I have also written program notes for the summer concert series.

I have published several peer-reviewed pieces since completing my Ph.D., but I am still working out how to balance my own research agenda with the career I have chosen. I struggle with the idea of giving up billable hours in order to do my own research, even though there are a lot of topics I want to investigate. Stay tuned as I continue to figure out this dimension of my life.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
I’m pretty simple. I edit clients’ documents on my PC using Microsoft Word’s track changes feature and comment tool. To transmit documents and communicate with clients, I use Google apps (Gmail, docs, sheets, etc.), Dropbox, and whatever else the client needs. Some larger companies have their own systems, so I’m adaptable.

What does your workspace setup look like?

I have a home office, but if I’m feeling cagey, I can always go work in a coffee shop, public library, or other space. My work is portable, meaning that I can work almost anywhere, which is both a blessing and a curse sometimes.

I have two dogs who keep me company at home and remind me to take breaks. At 3 PM every day, like clockwork, my sheltie will bring me a tennis ball, as if to say, “Amanda, perhaps you should stretch a bit. Allow me to help you.”

What is your best advice for productive academic work?

My best advice is also the advice I find hardest to take myself. I’m always pushing and pushing, and I don’t always stop to refresh or decompress. Graduate school trained me to work 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, which is a very difficult habit to break. I know, theoretically, that if I take a day (or even just a few hours) to relax in some way, I will return to my work with more energy and vigor. It’s often hard to give myself permission to take that break, though.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

I have a giant dry erase board where I list ongoing projects and their deadlines, outstanding invoices and their amounts, project quotes, and other miscellaneous reminders (“schedule March Facebook posts” or “conduct Ph.D. Talk interview”). I also use a wall calendar and the calendar on my phone for hard deadlines or appointments.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?

No, but if I had it to do over again, I would take a course on how to use Microsoft Office, including Word and Excel. My skills are quite basic, and although they fulfill my present needs, I think I could accomplish much more much faster if I had greater knowledge of these programs.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
I’m assertive and advocate for myself. A colleague recently teased me about “hustling” publishers at a conference, but how else will people know who I am and what I do if I don’t introduce myself? I can’t just put my website out there and hope people will find it - instead, I have to speak up and let people know about me.

That said, if you’re looking for an editor, or if you want to talk more about academic careers outside the academy, I would love to chat with you. Please send me an email.

What do you listen to when you work?

Nothing. I’m a musicologist, which means that I am wholly incapable of listening to music in the background. Whether it’s Adele or J. S. Bach, I can’t NOT analyze what I’m hearing.

What are you currently reading?
I read the New Yorker every week, and I’m also working my way through a biography of Julia Child. I love her. If I come across an old rerun of The French Chef on public television, I will drop everything I’m doing and watch it.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?

I am very much an extrovert, but I like to work in solitude. I can talk to everyone in the room to hand out my business card and find out what they need from me, but when I sit down to work on their project, I’ll be silent until it’s finished.

What's your sleep routine like?

I commit to a regular sleep schedule. I do love a nap in the middle of the afternoon, if time allows.

What's your work routine like?
I’m at my desk more or less all day. My spouse works a 9-5 job, so I usually try to wrap up what I’m doing by 5 or 6 so that we can spend the evening together. If I have an appointment, lunch with a friend, or a shift at the radio station during the day, I will often make up the time in the evening, though.

What's the best advice you ever received?

When I was a senior in college and was applying for master’s degree programs, one of my advisors told me that I should not pay for graduate school. He said that if a program wanted me and saw potential in me, it would fund me fully. I took this advice to heart, because it meant that I need to recognize my own worth. This advice helped me in my choices of graduate school programs, but it also was crucial as I established my own business because I charge what my time is worth.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

PhD Defenses around the world: a defense in medicine from New York

Today, I have invited Rachel Ames to talk about her PhD Defense. Rachel completed her PhD in the Pathology Department at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she currently remains as a research fellow while applying for postdoctoral fellowships. For her PhD thesis work, she studied transcriptional regulation of CD4+ T cell responses to Plasmodium parasites. In addition to immunological research, Rachel is interested in improving research training quality and efficiency, and in effective science communication to diverse audiences. You can connect with her on Twitter @rachelyames.

Here's a "secret" no graduate student really likes to admit - many of us imagine ourselves defending when we watch another student's thesis defense. You think about what it would feel like, what you would say - and then sometimes worry that that day will never come. So when that day finally arrives, it feels like a somewhat surreal experience, with both feelings of deja vu as well as the new excitement of this rite of passage finally happening.

At Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, students must obtain permission to write and defend their thesis from their advisory committee, comprised of at least three faculty members in addition to your mentor. In addition to completing all required coursework and a qualifying exam, our university requires a manuscript be at least submitted to a peer-reviewed journal as a degree requirement. Permission is therefore usually obtained after this paper is submitted, or if the student appears to be very close to that point (the manuscript can be submitted up to the day of your defense, technically, but that is not recommended!). The written thesis document is to be distributed to the thesis committee members three weeks prior to the defense date to allow time for the committee to assess the document and raise issues in advance of the defense, if necessary. Typically, the thesis committee consists mainly of members of your advisory committee (if scheduling allows), an alternate to ensure sufficient quorum in the case of a last minute cancellation, and one expert in your field from outside of your institution.

I defended my PhD thesis last November, and I found it to be a truly enjoyable experience. Both Albert Einstein and the State of New York require a public seminar as a portion of the thesis defense, which is then followed by a closed-door oral exam for one-to-two hours. Because of the public seminar format, many students take the opportunity to invite family and friends, and it is really nice to share that occasion with those individuals who have probably spent many years wondering what exactly you were doing with your time. Often, even for friends in my own graduate program, their thesis defense was the first time that I really grasped the big picture of what they were studying, as we were spread out in different departments. It is also a nice opportunity to thank all those who supported your PhD work, both from a scientific perspective as well as those who supported you personally - who are just as essential to the work but are not frequently publically recognized.

The oral exam, for me, was also very pleasant - after countless hours writing the thesis in a mostly solitary setting, I found it to be really enjoyable to discuss the field and my data with my committee during the defense. This session is typically a relaxed discussion, mostly regarding implications of your work or any questions the examiners may have regarding the specifics of your field. The qualifying exam, which takes place two years into the PhD program at Einstein and involves a grant-style proposal of your project, occurs at a time while you are often still trying to wrap your head around all the basics of your research, both the techniques and literature of the field. By the time of the thesis defense, you should know well which things you know, don't know, and what is still to be discovered, and that deeper knowledge makes discussing the work so much more enjoyable, rather than feeling like a classic "exam."

The PhD process is a test in itself, both testing you day to day on your understanding of basic principles and your field, as well as testing your mettle over many years of hard work. Rather than an intense exam, the day of my defense felt more like a capstone of that process, an opportunity to look back at what I had created and learned, and all the people that had helped me get there.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

PhD Defenses around the world: a defense in Finland

Today, I am inviting Alexandra Mihailova to discuss her PhD defense in the "Defenses around the world" series. Alex is turning 28 in less than two weeks, and is originally from Moscow, Russia. Her family relocated to Finland when she was 11, and she has lived in Tampere ever since. She got her MSc degree there as well, at the University of Tampere. She studied biomedical science and was especially interested in regenerative medicine, so she started working with pluripotent stem cells as an undergraduate student and continued in the same research group for her PhD. Right now, she is recovering from the defense and figuring out what to do next. Her plans are not set in stone yet though, so she can't say anything for sure, but she will hopefully continue in the field of biomedicine and would like to engage more in scientific communication. In her free time she keeps herself busy by long-distance running and baking.

I recently successfully defended my PhD in biomedical science at University of Tampere, Finland. The topic of my dissertation was “Tissue engineering for ocular surface reconstruction”. In a nutshell, the main aim of my study was to investigate differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells towards corneal epithelium.

First off, some background about writing a doctoral dissertation in Finland. In the field of life science and other “hard sciences”, doctoral dissertations are almost exclusively based on scientific publications. Typically three or four publications are needed for a PhD (this varies among universities), and the PhD student should have had a significant contribution to all of them. The actual PhD thesis should tie the publications together by introducing the general background of the study, summing up the results and discussing the main outcomes and limitations of the research. Once it is written and approved by the institute, two external reviewers evaluate the thesis and give feedback to the student to improve its quality. At this point, the reviewers can also reject the thesis if they feel it is not strong enough for a public defense. If that is the case, the PhD student has to make corrections to the thesis and go through the review process again. Once both external reviewers approve the thesis, the PhD student gets a permission to defend the dissertation.

The PhD defense is public from start to finish, and usually friends and family are invited in addition to colleagues and collaborators. There are also many formalities involved, most of which are somewhat old-fashioned. The dress code is strict and there are set phrases that have to be said at the beginning and at the end. The disputant, opponent and custos (a professor at the institute and preferably but not necessarily the supervisor) enter the auditorium at exactly 12:15, and the audience stands while they walk to the front of the room. The custos begins the defense by briefly introducing the disputant and opponent.

Then the disputant gives an introductory lecture (officially called Lectio praecursoria), for the public to get a general overview of the study background and aims. This tends to be the part where most disputants are noticeably nervous – my legs were feeling a little shaky for the entire 15 minutes of talking. Then the opponent gives a few general remarks which he/she thinks may be relevant. Usually this part is very short, maybe 5 minutes. However, at my defense, the opponent gave a fairly long presentation, to make sure the audience understood the aims of my study. After that, the actual discussion of the doctoral dissertation begins, and it takes 1-2 hours.

I’ve been to several PhD defenses before my own, and this part is very different every time, so you never really know what to expect. Some opponents ask very specific questions, while others choose to be broader. My opponent basically asked me to explain each of my three publications, and asked various questions related to them all throughout. Overall, I think I answered fairly well, although of course some questions were more difficult than others. It is somewhat common for the opponents to ask what are the main strengths and weaknesses of the PhD study, so I think it’s good to prepare an answer just in case. My opponent didn’t ask anything like that (although I had an answer ready!), but he did ask how I would choose to proceed in the project if money wasn’t an issue. Also a vague question, but I personally prefer those to the more technical ones, because it gives more room for discussion.

Finally, once the opponent is finished with the questions, he/she stands up to give a brief statement about the overall quality of the dissertation and defense. The disputant then thanks the opponent for the discussion and asks the audience if anyone has additional questions or comments. This is more of a formality, as it is very rare that someone from the audience asks anything.

The custos then announces that the defense is finished, and everyone is free to leave the auditorium after the disputant and opponent exit. Coffee and cake is served immediately after, and there is usually a party later in the evening in honor of the opponent. If they want to, PhD recipients in Finland can get a doctoral hat (looks somewhat like a top hat) and a doctoral sword for future academic occasions. But that’s basically all there is to it - several years of work and then one day it's over and new challenges await!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Q&A: TU Delft or Georgia Tech for an MSc. in Structural Engineering

Dear readers, it's time for anoher Q&A post. Today, we are comparing TU Delft with Georgia Tech for a master's degree in Structural Engineering.

Some time ago, I received the following message:

Dear Doctor Lantsoght,

I am a student recently being admitted by TU Delft for MSc program in Civil Engineering ( Structural Engineering Track ). I am writing to you to ask for help in comparing TU Delft with the Georgia Institute of Technology. While TU Delft offers me with scholarship, the Georgia Institute of Technology gives me an admission of MS without financial aid. My main concern is that TU Delft seems to be a less recognized university in my country and I wonder whether Gatech has a better reputation on a worldwide scale (especially in terms of civil engineering). Would you please give me some advice on this issue?
Thanks a lot for your time!

My reply was the following (I enjoyed my time at Georgia Tech and TU Delft a lot):

Dear XX,

Thank you for reaching out to me with your question.

When deciding upon going to Georgia Tech and TU Delft, you are in a luxury situation: both are excellent schools. While I can't make the deciscion for you or tell you where to go, here are a few things to consider:
- If you don't get financial aid, does that mean you'll be paying off student debt until your retirement?
- in terms of rankings, both schools are doing very well. According to the QS international rankings, Delft is currently 2nd worldwide and GT 24th.

If finances are not an issue, try to figure out with whom you'd be working, and where you'd be able to find an advisor that is the best match for you, and your future plans. If you would like to spend some time after your studies working in Europe, Delft would be the best option, if you want to work in the USA, GT is your best option. Both schools are excellent options if you'd be interested in doing a PhD after the MSc program.

Hope that helps,


Thursday, June 9, 2016

PhD Song

Some time ago, I received a nice email from Stephen from Sweden. He wrote me about the song he developed that described his PhD experience. I enjoyed it very much, so I decided to share it here:

Have fun with this!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I am Mark Bradford and This is How I Work

Today, I am hosting Mark Bradford in the "How I Work" series. Mark is a designer exploring leadership within creative practice through both theoretical and applied design research. He just passed his PhD(Business) in February this year. His thesis titled ‘BeWeDō®: Co-creating Possibilities with Movement,’ investigated how Aikidō movement practices facilitate leadership development for co-creation. He is currently responsible for lecturing and coordinating senior studio/theory courses within the School of Design at the College of Creative Arts in Wellington, New Zealand.

Current Job: Senior Lecturer, School of Design, Massey University.
Current Location: Wellington, New Zealand.
Current mobile device: Alcatel One Touch.
Current computer: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch.

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?

I just passed my PhD recently! My interdisciplinary research focused on investigating how the movement practices of the Japanese martial art of Aikidō can facilitate leadership development for co-creation. The research synthesised diverse literatures focussed on aikidoka, leadership development, and creative modes of practice as processes in action and in relation to collective creativity and the context of co-creation within the experience economy.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?

My design-led ethnography combines autoethnography and visual ethnography. This approach involves a wide range of interconnected design drawing-acts to document my research such as conceptualising, sketching, mindmapping, conceptmapping, writing, diagramming, photography, and video during the fieldwork.

The fieldnotes were systematically coded utilising Microsoft Excel (to look for conceptual patterns during the processes of coding), Inspiration (a visual learning tool I found invaluable for organising, grouping, and analyzing textual and image-based drawing data diagrammatically), Google documents, as well as working manually – writing and drawing by hand (using Moleskin journals) – to respond to and follow lines of inquiry emerging in the field. The combination of computer software and manual line-making focused the data analysis and connected the processes of self-reflexivity. From a writing perspective I used Microsoft Word + Endnote referencing software. The final thesis was designed using Adobe InDesign & Photoshop.

What does your workspace setup look like?
At the School of Design I work in a fantastic large open plan workspace with many different types of flexible working spaces. I have no one specific workspace – I tend to roam the space and choose a location that suits the type of work (conversational, organisational, academic etc) I intend doing on the day.

For my ethnographic research, my workspace was in multiple fields. The majority of this involved training in the Aikidō Tenshindo dōjō in Wellington, as well at times in Aikidō Shinryukan dōjō’s throughout New Zealand.

From a PhD writing perspective I worked from my home office. For the last 18 months this has all been done at a standing desk which has been fantastic! I found it impossible to write in the work environment. I like my home office to be clean/sparse, but welcome the creative chaos the writing/visualising process often generates.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?

This is a tricky question . . . I’ve got plenty of tips if you’re interested in being unproductive! Luckily by the end of the PhD I’ve certainly got more productive . . . incredibly focussed. It was exciting! I did this in private, public, and more philosophical ways . . . the key in my opinion is slowly finding YOUR WAY (no matter how crazy it may sound or appear to others!) to approach what is an incredible challenging task.

Pragmatically I’d use Apple Calendars (iCal) to schedule weekly and organise the day-to-day tasks. Each research day meant working out a plan using a mix of iCal, lists and diagrams (hand drawn), scattered Post-its, using ‘Timey’ (a basic timer that goes on your computer menu bar), and using social media (Twitter – especially Tweetdeck for Chrome) to help me work: I stand at my desk and work for 30+30+30 minutes without distraction. Then, after the 90 minutes are up, I do something completely unrelated for 15 minutes. After this time is up I go back to my desk and repeat.

Privately, every Saturday morning (always bolstered with black coffee = a positive ritual), I’d plan my research week ahead inspired by a Tweet by Tom Peters (@tom_peters) “Sunday task: Leadership is theater: “Script” your 1st 10 “plays” for Monday morning” (I adapted this idea => ‘script 3 plays for the week’ > hang these “commitments” on the wall next to where I was working).

Another Tweet was influential from @jasonfried: “I never liked ‘get things done.’ Get THE thing done not thingS. To know what isn’t worth doing is key." – via @johnmaeda.” I used this more motivationally => generated the Twitter hashtag #getTHEthingdone > tweeted these (often obscure) “commitments” publically!

More philosophically, I’ve transferred a few of the key Aikidō metaphors I’ve overheard my instructor use on-the-mat. Sensei Richard Halson (5th Dan) would often offer pragmatic reminders – mainly to new aikidoka (a practitioner of Aikidō) – using numbering systems such as “Aikidō 101” (meaning offline or don’t be there), “Aikidō 102” (meaning breathe), and “Aikidō 103” (meaning relax). I’d often find myself applying these principles in a variety of ways in relation to my academic research off-the-mat. For example, the flowing movement practices of Aikidō were eluded to in a more playful way via social media => using the Twitter hashtag’s #move #moving #movement > public tweets that were for me more collegial/cultural/cryptic and communicated to people who knew my projects trajectory.

Lastly, you have to be pretty selfish. Find a space where you can get away from everything/everyone and keep things simple. For me this ranged from disappearing downstairs to my home office (which my sensitive teenage daughter sometimes referred to as “loserville”!) through to taking a walk at my local beach to ‘clear my head’ => Relax, then #move!

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

The more pragmatic day-to-day tasks were organised using a combination of daily lists and iCal. The overall schedule (with key milestones) was organised using Google spreadsheet.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?

The pencil was THE key ‘technological tool’ I used. During the fieldwork, I also used photography (Nikon D60 digital camera), video (GoPro) and digital voice recorders (Olympus DS-50).

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?

Relentless curiosity.

What do you listen to when you work?
I find music too distracting when writing. If I do introduce music I tend to seek rhythmic sounds and avoid music with vocals to encourage reflexivity i.e. minimalist composers such as Philip Glass. At other times during my research/writing process (when organising, sketching, mindmapping, conceptmapping, diagramming, designing the thesis layout) music was used motivationally – often as a way too loudly celebrate breaking away from a long period of silent writing i.e. The Fall, Black Flag, Atoms for Peace…

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
I just read ‘The Future’ by Marc Augé; ‘The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction’ by Matthew Crawford; and flicking through ‘Camper: The Walking Society’ by Anniina Koivu (Ed). When I was in the thick of thesis writing I tried to “read” something completely different than what the research required at the end of the day i.e. books on artists which were more visual and a useful distraction and subtle creative provocation.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
Introvert (that would explain why I developed a habit of writing in a hoodie!).

What's your sleep routine like?
Pragmatic! Historically I’ve always been a ‘morning person’ . . . but at times in the last few years this habit has needed to be more flexible and fit in with the different kinds of demands the PhD process brings + my body clearly signals when it’s stopped thinking late at night and essentially signals “go get some sleep stupid!”

What's the best advice you ever received?
I’m not sure it’s necessarily the “best advice” . . . but I often find myself returning to Aukje Thomassen’s encouraging words: “Dare to think openly and creatively.”

Thursday, June 2, 2016

PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: Time management essentials for researchers

This post is part of the series PhD Talk for AcademicTransfer: posts written for the Dutch academic career network AcademicTransfer, your go-to resource for all research positions in the Netherlands.

These posts are sponsored by AcademicTransfer, and tailored to those of you interested in pursuing a research position in the Netherlands.

If these posts raise your interest in working as a researcher in the Netherlands, even better - and feel free to fire away any questions you might have on this topic!

Good planning is the key to a successful PhD... The old adage still holds true, and regardless of the stage of your academic career you are in, planning and managing your time is essential if you want to deliver your work on time.

During your studies, you might be able to pass a class by cramming for the exam a few days before the exam, and then forget about it. A PhD doesn't work like that: you can't lollygag for 3,5 years and then push out a thesis (even though there are online services that claim they can write a 10k word dissertation for you in 2 days *__* ). Research is a continuous process, and in order to stay on top of your game, you will (and I'm repeating myself here ad nauseum) learn to manage your time.

It might come as a surprise to you, but I had to learn how to divide my time and plan for my studies as well (during my studies in Brussels). As I got away with studying maximum 20 minutes a day during high school, I had to learn the hard way how to chew my way through pages and pages of coursebooks. So if you are one hell of a disorganized mess, don't worry - that level of chaos does not need to define you. You can learn how to manage your time - not overnight, but by incorporating time management elements bit by bit, and morphing towards a system that works for you.

In this post, I will focus on concepts and tools. I will explain you basic time management concepts, and then the tools you can use for it, so you can go ahead and try this out yourself. I will also refer you to some previous posts of mine on the discussed concept, for further reading. We will start by reviewing some basic concepts, and then look at planning: from long-term all the way down to your tasks in a given day.

Concept: Measure how much time your work *really* takes

Before you can start having realistic estimates of how much time you need to reserve for carrying out a task, you need to know how much time things take you. To learn to quantify your time in detail, I recommend you record your tasks and how much time you spend on time. You might be surprised that, while you think you spent an entire day working on something, you maybe only really worked 5 hours on it, and spent the rest of your time replying emails or answering the phone.

The tools: You can record your time by hand, by using an Excel spreadsheet, or, my favorite, by using software like ManicTime.

Further reading: Here you can read about how I was using software tools to track how I spend my time. Note that I am not doing this anymore - by now I have a good understanding of how much time certain tasks take me.

Concept: Learn how to prioritize your tasks

Let's assume that you've already figured out your tasks (we'll talk more about knowing what you need to do everything by going from long-term planning down to daily tasks lists). And let's say that you have a lot of things on your plate in a given week. Now how do you prioritize your tasks? Organize your tasks according to the urgent-important matrix:

Spend more time on tasks that are important but not urgent - these are the tasks that tend to slip between the cracks if you do not consciously make time for them (such as writing your journal papers, which don't have a deadline).

The tools: Pen and paper works well for this, or you can assign a priority level to tasks in an app that manages your tasks, such as todoist (my favorite task list app).

Further reading: Read more about the urgent-important matrix here. Learn more about dead work in this post. An application to the responsibilities of a junior faculty members can be found here. And, often it comes down to finding time for writing (and guarding this time for dear life).

Concept: Don't plan more than 75% of your time

Whenever you make a planning, allow for some air in your planning. You need to move from one place to another. Sometimes you need to stare at the wall. Sometimes you need to sit in silence for 15 minutes over a cup of coffee. You need to pick up the phone sometimes. All these small tasks are things you can't expect to have in your planning. To avoid feeling rushed and stressed all the time, add extra time to your schedule. If I know for example a certain task is going to take me 1,5 hours, I will put 2 hours for it in my schedule.

The tools: You can either plan your day by using a paper planner, or by using a calendar application like iCal or Google Calendar.

Further reading: In general, my days looked like this during my PhD.

Concept: Reverse-plan from a deadline

If you have a given deadline, don''t just think you will handle it once the deadline starts to draw near. Instead, start to plan for a task right when you learn about a deadline. Say you need to submit a conference paper in 9 months from now - that does not mean you can twiddle your thumbs and ignore the paper for the next 8 months. What I usually do, is to try and have the first draft of the paper ready 2 months before the deadline (or earlier, if it suits my paper planning schedule). From my self-imposed deadline, I count back and calculate the time I need to drafting the text. If all research is done and I have a research report available, I will typically need 2 weeks for this, writing 2 hours a day. I also need to count in 4 hours for brushing up figures and about 4 hours for proof reading and making changes. All in all, I typically would start scheduling in time about 3 months prior to the deadline, so that I can get my draft to my coauthors 2 months in advance.

The tools: For keeping an overview of the papers that I need to work on, I use a designated "Writing papers" list in ToDoist. To reserve time in my schedule, I put blocks of time in Google Calendar.

Further reading: Here's how I keep track of my papers in progress.

Concept: Plan long term

For a long-term project, like a multi-year research project or a PhD project, it is good to have a general overview with different milestones. You want to have a vague idea of which subtask you want to have finished in which month, and you want to have enough buffer at the end to catch unforeseen circumstances (they always show up - you can foresee that the unforeseen will make itself seen...).

The tools: For a PhD project of 4 years, I like Klaar in vier jaar (ready in four years), a tool to help you plan for the 4 years of a PhD by identifying milestones and placing air and holidays into your long term planning. Other good tools could be a big chart that you put on the wall, or a gantt chart in Excel.

Further reading: Here you can read about how I planned towards my defense.

Concept: Make a semester overview

Let's zoom in a bit more. Now that you've defined your major milestones, you can see what needs to be done in each semester. Before the start of a new semester, list your tasks and estimate how many weeks you need to spend on each. Then reserve your required number of weeks for these tasks.

The tools: I like doing a brain dump before every semester just with pen and paper to list the major research tasks that I have in a semester, the papers that I want to write, the service responsibilities that I need to take care of, the teaching activities that I need to plan in and the conferences I will travel to (i.e. weeks in which I do not plan to work on the other tasks). Then, you can select in for example Google Calendar the number of days/weeks that you plan to work on a certain task, to have this show up in the month view of your calendar.

Further reading: You can find an example here about how I outline my semesters. Read this if you are new to research.

Concept: Make a weekly schedule to fit all your tasks

If you know which tasks you need to work on during a semester, you can start playing time Tetris to make everything fit. Allow for buffer time. Plan in time to eat, plan in time to reply emails (it takes me 1 - 2 hours a day). I recommend you do not plan to have more than 50 hours in your schedule. If you start with 60+ hours in your schedule, and have some work flowing over into your "spare" time, you will end up with nothing but eat, sleep and work. And I know very few people who function well on such a schedule.

The tools: Here, either a template in Excel or using Google Calendar or iCal works great to divide your time into time slots of a weekly template to make everything fit in. I like using different color codes: red for general work, light blue for research, dark blue for teaching, yellow for personal, pink for the blog and green for sports - so that in a quick look I can know how my day is split among my major tasks.

Further reading: Read here on how I try to balance teaching and research. I've written about my experiences with a weekly template as well. Read here how I deal with email. Oh, and we are all different - some people need more room for freewheeling. If you're new to teaching, this post might help.

Concept: Know what you need to do in a day

Once you have your weekly template, you might need to tweak and twist it a bit on a weekly basis to fit in meetings and special occasions, and to add which research in particular you will work on, or which class prep task you will tackle in a given "class prep - teaching" time slot.

The tools: Once you have the weekly template, you an easily have an overview of your different tasks in a day through Google Calendar or iCal. Additionally, I use ToDoist, with an overview of the smaller tasks that I need to do in a day (i.e. drop off a form to the secretary, put anti-flea stuff on the cat), or to check off tasks that I want to do on a daily basis (meditate, work on paper X). In ToDoist, I like adding a due time: if I need to take care of things on campus, I will but the due time shortly after class. If I need to do things at home, I will put a due time of 9pm. ToDoist has the neat feature that it then will show an overview of your tasks for the day sorted by time, so you can see what needs to be done when during the day.

Further reading: This post describes what my time management system looked like in 2012. One year later, it had morphed into something different. Nowadays, I basically fully rely on Google Calendar and ToDoist, and then pen and paper in a notebook to outline my major tasks for an entire semester. Read here for tips about using lists.