A time-management plan is unlikely to be effective without a reliable method of assessing progress and evaluating whether or not you have met your goals. The thesis is a project that frequently lacks structure and deadlines, and there may not be formal expectations regarding a time frame for completion. The lack of formal accountability often affects productivity because the incentive to complete work at the deadline is largely absent with this project.
The need to develop a system for managing accountability acknowledges that graduate students are often functioning in two separate roles. The daily tasks associated with the research and writing place graduate students in the role of employee, who is assigned the task of doing the work necessary to complete the project. Most graduate students are also in a management or supervisory role with responsibilities for long-term planning and accountability. Many graduate students find the project management role to be the most challenging because it includes the responsibility to hold themselves accountable.
It is important to develop a method for evaluating the progress you are making toward your goals and to review your work on a consistent basis. This assessment should allow you to determine whether you have met your goals and, if not, assess what types of issues have affected your productivity. It is important that the system you develop tracks your time accurately, because even small declines in productivity will have a substantial impact on your progress on a large project like the thesis.
There are many ways to manage accountability. The system needs to be utilized consistently and provide you with meaningful information regarding your productivity so that you are able to make changes whenever necessary.
It may be helpful to include some of the following in your system:
- A workplan that designates how much time you will be working every week
- A consistent time for reviewing work completed during the past week
- At least 15 minutes allocated per week for reviewing your work
- A task list that breaks down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks
- A strategy for managing issues that may be negatively impacting motivation
- A plan to manage issues that are interfering with your goals
- A mentor who can provide support, encouragement, and constructive feedback related to your work
- A method for reviewing new assignments and determining how they impact goals established for the thesis