Getting your PhD (back) on track 2: other tasks

In my PhD workshops, there are also plenty of students who can do the deep work, but struggle to get all the other tasks done that ensure they can complete their PhD. This includes organising meetings, organising interviews or data collection, calling people on the phone, getting progress reports completed, organising childcare and assisting their child to transition, paying the bills, applying for funding, getting ethics approval and organising food and housing and jobs around the thesis. In my workshop we discuss life admin and how important it is to also make time for this. We also discuss thesis admin — what kinds of things do we need to have in place in order to complete the thesis or get our PhD research back on track?

  • File management system — can you find all the files you need and do your store them somewhere logically (NOT in your email).
  • Communication — have you set up a good routine around communication, do you check your university emails, do you have a system for getting tasks from email into your task list and plan (again do NOT use email as a task management system).
  • Timeline — do you have a PhD timeline that you regularly update? Do you know where you are in the timeline and how much time you need to complete your current stage of work? have you factored in other people’s time, such as when your supervisor is on leave or what turnaround they require to get your work back to you?
  • Expectations — do you know what a thesis looks like? Have you spent time with other PhD students from various levels to get a sense of what is normal? Have you looked at theses from your area? Have you discussed these with your supervisors?
  • University requirements — are you familiar with the rules and regulations governing your candidature, the people and systems set up to help you, deadlines you may be up against?

Time and task management summary

  • TIMEBLOCK: Time for task management is important. If you put it off, use a timer or book in with a buddy. Try doing a ‘shut up and admin’ session either on zoom or in person.
  • BE SPECIFIC: When creating a plan for your thesis, it’s too easy to schedule in ‘work on thesis’ then just check email. Name the tasks that need doing.
  • BIG PICTURE: How do these tasks fit in with my overall goals? Remind yourself.
  • HABIT: Build habits and routine to minimise overwhelm and decision-making

Resources for time and task management

  • Emens, E. (2019). The Art of Life Admin: How to Do Less, Do It Better, and Live More. Penguin UK.
  • Miller, A. B. (2009). Finish Your dissertation once and for all!: How to overcome psychological barriers, get results, and move on with your life. American Psychological Association. See especially chapter 4 on making timelines and planning out milestones.
  • Carroll, R. (2018). The bullet journal method: Track the past, order the present, design the future. Penguin. Great method for getting ALL the things done in your life.
  • Thesis whisperer: Getting things done
  • Seal, R. (2021). Solo: How to work alone (and not lose your mind). Souvenir Press.
  • Ryan, R. (2016). Mindfulness for Mothers. Macmillan Australia. Some great tips here for those of you with small people to care for.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: