PhD productivity, it feels like we are never productive enough.
Writing a PhD thesis is never an easy job – not because your subject matter is difficult or the research you have to perform is extraordinarily unachievable, but due to a different factor: life organization.
By the time you have reached this level of education, you are probably at least twenty-five years old. You have about five years of college experience behind you. Now you cannot spend your free time hanging out with your friends and binge-watching TV shows.
Having responsibilities and in some cases a job, means that your time is generally divided into two categories – work on your thesis and free time.
If you manage to balance these, you will be successful in both, but what if you cannot?
For example, if you spend the entire day researching, you will be too tired to see your friends in the evening – and even if they come by your house, your attention span will not be high enough and you will be sleepy.
For those who experience longer periods of researching and academic writing, getting back into social life may be rather awkward at first: when you do not see your friends for a week or two, it sometimes takes you some accommodation time to get back in the game.
Finally, and this is what happens to me quite often:
You are not present. You get together with friends, drink coffee, watch sports or just hang out, but your mind is at your thesis!!
You are thinking about that research you have just conducted or a particular question you have to answer and you are not concentrated on your friends and the conversation.
It is like you are cheating on your friends with your thesis!
However, it does not need to be that complicated all the time, so here are some PhD productivity tips on how to make sure that you can meet your friends at least twice a week.
Because having a healthy social life is essential for a successful PhD.
6 PhD Productivity Habits To Keep Your Social Life
#1 Wake Up Strategy
What’s the first thing you do after waking up?
The majority of people check their phones immediately after waking up.
Checking your phone switches your attention to a new email you have received during the night. It means starting their day by replying to it and ending up not doing what you have planned.
You are being reactive.
You are not in charge of your day, your inbox is.
This is not what you should do. If you want to boost your PhD productivity you should start your day with a routine. This is a sequence of tasks you always have to do and where you don’t need to think “what do I do next?”.
For example: get up > urinate > take your vitamins > prepare breakfast > eat breakfast > shower > meditate.
The goal of a routine is getting things done without having to make decisions, avoiding decision-fatigue. By doing this, your brain will be fresher later in the day when you are tempted to procrastinate.
After you are done with your routine tackle some easy leftover tasks from yesterday first and then get on with the new ones. This will build you additional time for the evening.
#2 Declining an Invitation
No matter how enjoyable it is to be with your friends, sometimes you have to decline their invitations.
Make sure that they are aware of your workload and schedule and not invite you to gatherings too often: the less they do that, the less you will have to decline and feel bad about it.
Set aside two or three nights a week when you are available to them, and that should be it. The sooner your friends start respecting your organization, the easier it will be for you to do so as well.
#3 Plan in Advance
When speaking of meeting your friends, it is a good idea to schedule get-togethers several days or a whole week in advance.
If you know that your Tuesday or Friday night will not be free for work, you will work more during the day.
This will allow you to combine enhanced productivity and relaxation over the course of a single day, which is always good.
#4 Reach the Goal and then Go Party
This is another rather useful PhD productivity tip, albeit quite harsh at the same time.
Do not see your friends unless you have completed the designated amount of work for a particular day or week.
Let them be angry or think you are too focused on your thesis, but if you stop your research in the middle of an important part to go to a party, it will be more than difficult do continue the next day.
Remember, your PhD matters. So finish what you are doing, and then meet with your friends. Celebrate that you have been a good girl. You worked hard, now you are allowed to party hard.
#5 Clear Organization
A PhD is a massive research project, with lots of tasks. If you are trying to complete several tasks in a single day, you can try prioritizing them and classifying them by difficulty.
A great PhD productivity trick is to limit your day to a three-task organization.
Take three tasks and label them as hard, semi-hard and easy. Try to complete the first two until 5PM. That will make you more organized and leave some time for non-work related things.
#6 Skip the Day
You do realize that you need not work on your thesis every single day of the week, right?
Yes, you have to do some work, but not dedicate each day exclusively to your thesis.
This PhD productivity hack might sound a bit crazy, but it works like a charm.
Make three days super-productive and work through the entire Monday, Wednesday and Friday, of a week. Then turn Tuesday and Thursday into slower-tempo days. Those can be the days to see your friends, but not too late at night!
#Bonus: read the best productivity books
The 4-Hour Workweek: the best strategies to maximize your output per hour. You choose to achieve more in the same time you use now, or achieve the same in less time. Check it here
Getting Things Done (GTD): the classic of the productivity classics. It teaches how to build a bulletproof system to handle all your projects, to-do lists and prioritization. Check it here
The Final Product
Of course, by the time you have finished your thesis, your most important goal will be done and you will be ready to enter the academic world of the highest rank.
However, if that leaves you friendless and distanced from social life, the success will be bitter.
That is why you should adapt your schedule, remember to meet with your friends, and work out an organization that will combine research and fun.