Creating a PhD To-Do List for Increased Success

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As a PhD student, the sheer amount of work required for every paper or project can be overwhelming. When you add in other requirements, such as family time, workload, and other daily requirements, it can be quite easy to buckle under the pressures. However, a well-planned To-Do list can be an essential part of getting and staying on track as you pursue your educational goals.

A PhD To-Do list is not something that can be thrown together on a whim, as there are many personal considerations that need to go into the making of the list. The following information will allow you to take the steps needed to create a PhD To-Do list that actually meets your needs, rather than making the educational process even more difficult.

Is a To-Do List Necessary?

This is a question that many students ask, and the answer is always the same – yes, if you want to do your best. While you can complete your education without a To-Do list, the fact remains that it is much easier to reach your goals when they are delineated in a clear and concise manner. A well-planned list provides the focus you need, without forcing you to try to remember every aspect that needs attention. Understanding that you have already made a plan can do wonders for stress relief, which allows you to spend more time focusing on those projects that need your complete attention.

Understand Yourself

In order to create a list that you can follow for your PhD, you must first consider your own habits and preferences. You will need to determine how you approach a task, when you function and perform best, and what you need for your own sanity. Once you understand this information, you can create a To-Do list that will assist you throughout your PhD education.

Determining Your Goals

When coming up with the goals you hope to achieve during your studies, it is important to make sure that they are not broad, vague goals that are impossible for you to measure.  For example, adding ‘reading’ to your to-do list is a goal that you cannot measure anything against to ensure that you are on track with completing everything. You will want to make sure that your goals are precise, and actually provide you with the guidance you need to get where you want to go.

Make SMART Goals

The acronym S.M.A.R.T. is a good tool for planning effective PhD To-Do lists. These letters stand for:

  • Specificity – You need to include exact goals that you need to accomplish
  • Measurability – Your goals must have a clear ending point
  • Attainability – Can you actually meet the goals in the time allotted
  • Realistic – Ensure that your goals and the time needed to complete them are actually doable
  • Timely – Ensure that your goals are those things that you actually need to be working on at a given time

Creating a To-Do list will help you keep track of where you are, and whether you are moving closer to where you want to be in the future.

Written By



Brandon has been working with PhD and Master’s candidates for their thesis and dissertation since 2007. He is a sports enthusiast and has completed his PhD in 2009. He works closely with students and candidates for consulting on academic documents.

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