In the best of times, successfully juggling personal and professional responsibilities is a formidable task for anyone. Throw a doctorate into the mix, and the doctoral candidate quickly recognizes the need to
become a world-class ringmaster ensuring all critical pieces are moving in sync and all gears are well oiled. Time management is the key to ensuring personal success and sanity! and can be realized through
prioritization, efficiency, and perseverance.
The first key to time management is prioritization. There will certainly be times when you will be torn between competing duties, projects, or deadlines. This simultaneity (a term borrowed from econometrics I picked up while in the doctorate program and added as part of my acquired doctoral vernacular ) is an inevitable source of stress and heartache. But it can be ameliorated with a robust prioritization methodology.
To quote Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.” My personal recommendation is to use the intuitive Eisenhower Matrix (Google it) and categorize tasks into one of four groups:
1. Urgent and important: Do this task immediately;
2. Important, but not urgent: Do this task later;
3. Urgent, but not important: Try delegating this task to someone else; and
4. Neither urgent nor important: Eliminate and drop this task.
(On the point of prioritization, please always never forget the top priority: your family and loved ones. We are often so busy living that we never stop to wonder why. In fact, it will be their support that will help you survive nay, thrive! during your doctoral journey.)
Another secret to success is to identify and exploit efficiencies at every step. Not only do smart things; do things smartly. Meaning, drill down to what exactly it is you need to do; no more, no less. If you are required to add “a brick” a contribution to a body of literature, do not attempt to construct an entirely new body of literature. Do not try solving the world’s problems and life’s questions. Do not bite off more than you can chew. Further, within whatever it is you need to do, try to find ways to complete it in the best and quickest way. Be innovative, creative, and resourceful. If effectiveness means getting the right things done, efficiency means getting things done the right way.
A final key to time management is perseverance. Having completed my doctorate while balancing a family and career, I can attest to “if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Perseverance is key! Though counterintuitive, the more we take on, (somehow) the more gets done.
A good juggler can juggle more balls, I guess. What I have discovered is during periods of great stress and overwhelming responsibilities, I would get into the zone and accomplish a lot. Metaphorically, when the tall waves of deadlines and responsibilities are approaching, do not falter. Instead, brace yourself, face the waves, stand strong, and tap into your inner inspiration, strength, and motivation. Let the tall waves uplift you to highs and accomplishments you never thought possible. Do not be daunted by tasks; thrive from them.
To conclude, in my estimation, with sufficient prioritization, efficiency, and perseverance, I would confidently state the Doctoral Formula as: Life + Doctorate = Mission, POSSIBLE!!