Doing the PhD

a PORT for Modern Languages tutorial

4 Managing your time

Some students are excellent at time management. They always produce good quality work in good time. There never seems to be any last minute rush. If this is you, then there is no need to read this tutorial.

However, don't underestimate the difference between different kinds of academic work - from undergraduate study to PhD research. Whereas a Masters programme still provides you with a tightly structured timetable allowing you to work from essay deadline to essay deadline, PhD study will require a more independent and responsible approach of organizing your time. At the end of three years - a deadline that seems very far away - you will have to deliver a dissertation of the size of a book. Immersed in following up all the different fascinating strands of your research you may find that your topic grows larger and larger, taking you into directions never envisaged before. If you will go down that route, you will find yourself still researching and trying to define the basics of your PhD thesis after three, four, five or more years. If you feel you have never done enough to justify coming to an end with any of your research tasks, remind yourself that any PhD end product might be better if you took 20 years. But the PhD is to be done in 3! So don't think about the best you could do. Think about the best you can do granted you have 3 years to work full time.

Managing your time means developing a skill that will be: 

  • crucial for the completion of your research degree (be that an MA or a PhD) 
  • one of the most important transferable skills you will acquire in this period.

Managing your time effectively will enable you to:

  • meet your deadlines
  • carry out all your assignments without undue anxiety
  • absorb unforeseen difficulties without jeopardizing your research
  • accept unexpected opportunities (such as to teach or to give a paper)
  • earn a reputation for your punctuality and reliability.

Acquiring such skills will therefore hugely increase your self-reliance, triggering a virtuous circle of commitment and success. Likewise your employability will be increased, whatever career you intend to pursue, within the academic world as well as out of it.