PhD, Professor

Project Management for Teacher Assistants and Instructors: Balancing Workload

Running a class requires lots of preparation, administrative and repetitive tasks, time management, and coordination if TAs and graders are also involved. Most PhD students in the US are TAs (Teacher Assistants) for one or two courses their advisors or other professors teach in order to earn their stipend. TAing a course as a PhD student with other PhD students and a professor that is active in the research community can be quite challenging! Besides the usual problems of only having limited time to run a specific course due to teaching multiple courses or other responsibilities, PhD students and their advisors may attend one or more conferences during the semester. Making them unavailable or have very limited availability during their travels and conferences.

Hence, using project management techniques to plan tasks needed to run the class can make the workload more manageable. Though the techniques I share in this post may apply to any instructors and TAs, I use these in the context of being a PhD student TAing a course with a very research-active advisor, 1 co-TA, and 2 graders. Hope you find these tips helpful!

11 Project Management Steps for TAs and Instructors to Balance their Workload

Continue reading “Project Management for Teacher Assistants and Instructors: Balancing Workload”

Life + Wellness, Planners

Making Self-Improvement Plans with Quo Vadis’ Life Noted Planner

(Read on to the end for a giveaway opportunity!) Self-improvement can be a big project. Consider the many facets and responsibilities we have as humans. We have families, houses, belongings, our own bodies, minds, and souls. While each of these things need to be cared for, we may also want to improve our behavior and relationship with God. Or we may want to accomplish a goal for ourselves aside from these responsibilities (such as, starting a hobby or business).



How does one tackle such a big project? The answer is: one step at a time.

What tools can help you plan and execute your self-improvement or development goals? There are many. But today, I want to share Quo Vadis’ Life Noted Planner as a tool for planning and executing goals. The layout of the planner is really oriented to write down and focus on goals, and I’m very excited to use it!

Continue reading “Making Self-Improvement Plans with Quo Vadis’ Life Noted Planner”


How to Apply for a PhD

So you want a PhD. Determining whether that is the right path for you or not is a discussion for another (maybe future) post. But now that you have decided you want a PhD, how do you apply into a PhD program? Though some of the steps are similar to college and graduate applications, many aspects and steps of the application process are also quite different! I’ll share the steps I took to get into a PhD program.
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Here’s a summary of the steps, with in-depth explanations soon after:

  1. Research departments and professors, and the type of research they do
  2. Contact departments/professors you are potentially interested in
  3. Volunteer to do research with the department/professor
  4. Check for universities’ and department-specific application requirements, and work on fulfilling them
  5. Apply! Seriously, just do it.
  6. Last but not least, surrender!

Feel free to share what steps you took, or your stories about getting into college or a PhD program in the comments!

Disclaimer: The process and steps I list here are ones I took to get accepted into a university in the U.S. Talking to PhD students from other countries, it seems that the process and steps may be somewhat similar for other countries as well, but there may be differences.

Continue reading “How to Apply for a PhD”

Planner Accessories

Coffee Brain Plans Mini Mystery Planner Box Giveaway!

I won a giveaway! After I created this anonymous presence as “An Academic Planner”, and created an Instagram account, and saw all the giveaway opportunities being given by people who have met milestones, I always thought it would be super fun to win a giveaway! And I did! This giveaway was offered  Coffee Brain Plans through Instagram and Facebook as celebration of her starting to sell Mystery Planner Boxes. Per the description, the giveaway contains a mini version of what is actually provided through the Mystery Planner Boxes, but it will contain the main parts. Which means that if you subscribe for the monthly mystery planner boxes, you can look forward to even more goodies!

So, let me share the giveaway with you!

Continue reading “Coffee Brain Plans Mini Mystery Planner Box Giveaway!”

Life + Wellness, Planner Accessories, Planners

How to Make Fun Habit Trackers for your (Happy) Planner!

This time of year is often reflective. People thinking about the past year,  how to improve their health or themselves overall the coming year, and New Year resolutions. Along with becoming more productive, scheduling and passing my Qualifying Exam, and putting more focus on my Ph.D. degree, I wanted to improve my health. I identified some basic things to incorporate in my life, such as drinking more water, exercising, stretching, etc. How best to track your progress and habits, than using a planner!

At first, I made a list of habits/things I wanted to do everyday with a square or circle to color or check when I accomplished it, much like many BuJo and planner people are doing (examples of them are below, from an Etsy listing and blog post, respectively):

These didn’t work well for me. I found them too tedious and boring to even look at after a couple days. It was not motivating me at all. Lots of sticker creators have beautiful water tracking stickers, but I wanted to track a lot more than just my water intake. I also knew that my habits I want to track can and will change over time. Eventually, it dawned on me: why not make my own stickers, in which I can have images that represent things I want to do every day?! It will be easy and fun! And I can customize them, as needed.

Here, I share with you the steps to make your own, fun, color-in habit trackers! This method can easily be customized to track chores or other tasks, as well.

  1. Find and buy appropriately-sized labels
  2. Find an appropriate or corresponding document/template to customize and print labels
  3. Find black and white icons/images representing habits/chores you want to track
  4. Design your custom stickers
  5. Print, apply, and enjoy!

Detailed descriptions below, using my own stickers as examples.

Continue reading “How to Make Fun Habit Trackers for your (Happy) Planner!”

Planner Accessories

Lessons Learned while Cutting and Using Planner Stickers 

I recently printed quite a few free planner sticker kits, and am decorating my planner with them. As I was cutting the stickers (I don’t own a Sillouhette or similar machine) and decorating my planner, I had to constantly remind myself of 3 things:

  1. Leave white space
  2. Decorate while planning
  3. Don’t be confined to layout/lines

I’ll share why these points are important for me, in the hope it might be helpful to people who might want to decorate their planners cost effectively, as I am doing.

Continue reading “Lessons Learned while Cutting and Using Planner Stickers “

PhD, Planners

Planning the Long-Term PhD Process

In my previous post, I talked about how The Happy Planner helps me plan my day-to-day PhD work. However, the PhD process is quite a long one, and requires looking ahead at the next few months for papers and deadlines, and the next few years to meet and complete the PhD milestones on time.

Submitting papers to conferences depends on whether the research or paper you are working on fits the theme or subject of the conference, and whether you can complete the research and paper in time for the deadlines. At the beginning of the year, and every month or so, I look for when the deadlines of conferences that might relate to my research are. Not all conferences provide details at the beginning of the year; they become available as the organizers have made plans and make them available. Hence, I have to check intermittently. I put these deadlines in my monthly calendar, which is pocket sized to carry with me everywhere. I also track meetings, appointments, class times, and travels in my monthly calendar.

Previously, I would write estimates and plans of my PhD as outlines or timelines. Below is one example I did for the Spring 2017 semester. Note, I try to only be working on 2 large projects at a time, as I found I can’t effectively work on more than 2. Additionally, working on 2 projects simultaneously gives me a way to be productive when I’m bored or tired of working on one project.


Then I found the following blog post titled “Project Planning in my Bullet Journal”. I used to do something similar to that at work, but in Excel. It worked really well, as I was able to schedule certain tasks and projects regularly, thereby reducing the overall stress and workload on my team. The same day, my sister happened to bring me a graph paper composition book. All the signs compelled me to track my PhD process in a similar way! Here’s how it looks:


It has already been helpful! As soon as I finished 2 papers I was rigorously working on for the past 2 months, I woke up the next morning thinking for the first time in a long time, “What should I do today?” I pulled out my current PhD plan, and started to plan out which tasks I wanted to tackle this week.

Here are some updated pictures on the Happy Planner, since the last post!

Note: I recently created an Instagram account, and will be sharing my planner spreads there. Feel free to follow me!