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!


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