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Time management


unbrokenthread
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Hey all,

 

I'd just like ideas on what to do better. I'm really busy (first year PhD life -- 3 classes, TAing, 3 independent experiments running...you know)!

 

I absolutely love working with my PI and the people in my lab. I made it clear to my PI from the beginning that I was interested in maintaining a good work-life balance, so while I do occasionally pull 12-16 hour days in lab, it's not the norm and I don't want it to be. He seems to accept this. Spring break has been an ideal time to learn new procedures and get things going (when else am I going to have so much unallocated time?), but the senior PhD student who usually trains me is out on vacation, so I've been inching through these things on my own.

 

Anyway, my research progress has been much slower than I wanted it to be, and because I'm doing this alone via written instructions left by said senior PhD student, I find that I've been missing things, not doing them right, etc, and it's frustrating for both me and the PI. Compounding this is the problem that whenever I'm in lab with other people there are inevitably a series of questions, distractions, favors asked, etc, and I never know whether they're going to take 15 minutes or three hours. (An 8 hour day turned into a 14 hour one the other day for this reason. I was already sick as a dog, so it was extra miserable!)

 

So if a favor or a suggestion sounds complicated and time-consuming but not urgent, I've been trying to push it to a day when I know I have more time, but this apparently hits a nerve with the boss - "Why not do it right now?" (Of course this particular one was a <5 minute fix, making me feel ridiculous as a result, but I didn't know that at the time!)

 

Of course I want to make the boss happy, and help out my fellow lab members, etc. I've been trying to be good about setting boundaries but lately it just seems like everything is taking twice the time it should and the disruptions Are Not Helping.

 

How do you all handle this?

 

(ETA: Is this even in the right subforum? Sorry if not!)

Edited by unbrokenthread
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How about coming in to work 1 or 2 hrs earlier, before anybody else gets there? That gives you time to set up your own reactions, do your most important tasks, etc before people come along asking for favours. 

 

Putting in earphones and listening to music as you work is a good way to deter casual question-askers.

 

Lastly, don't sweat too much. You aren't expected to be perfect, and everybody understands that it takes a while for new PhDs to settle in and get stuff right first time. 

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