One of my  colleagues, entrepreneur Nicola Bird, wrote these 5 simple steps that help you to get your focus back. And although it was written for people with a business, it is equally important ánd applicable for PhD students. I have found out that there are a lot of similarities between doing your PhD and having your own business. But that’s maybe for another post. In this post, some additions for PhD students in BLUE. Now let’s get focused again first…

overwhelm in your PhD

Ever have one of those weeks where you look at your to-do list and it’s as long as your arm?

The feeling of overwhelm for me makes me feel actually physically sick, with a total brain blank and that slightly spinning feeling. Does that make sense to you?

As a busy business owner (plus mother, plus housekeeper, plus wife, plus daughter etc etc) AND HERE YOU CAN REPLACE BUSINESS OWNER WITH PHD- STUDENT sometimes that list can feel overwhelming – which probably means you’re procrastinating and not doing the really important stuff because it’s lost in the huge list.

There are five simple steps you can to quickly and easily to get a handle on this situation:

(You’ll need to set aside around an hour to complete the exercise)

1) Make ONE long master list of EVERYTHING that’s in your brain right now, on all your to-do lists and written on scraps of paper tucked in the bottom of your handbag or lying near your computer on your desk, or written on post its…

no more overwhelm, get form stressed to relaxed

2) Add up the number of items on that list and divide it by five. That’s the number of items you want left on your list by the end of this exercise. Why? Because the 80:20 rule applies to your to-do list. You’ll get 80% of the results you want from 20% of the activities you have planned. Your job now is to work out which.

3) Go down the list, swiftly, and put an asterisk next to only that number of tasks. Not one more and not one less.

4) For every other item, move it either to a ‘someday maybe list’ (so it’s not lost forever, it’s just not going to be done right now) or let it go and delete it (especially if it’s been on there for over a year and you’ve STILL not done it!)

5) Make sure you now have a clean fresh copy of that remaining 20% of to-dos.
Wiping 80% off your to-do list is one of the fastest ways I know to get out of overwhelm and into focus and moving forwards again.

To your clarity and focused thinking! And therefore, to a successful PhD!


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1 Comment

  1. This is a very good idea. I would definitely try this out. I am a Ph.D student in Experimental High Energy Physics (such as in LHC). My primary job is to analysis the data by writing c++ codes and find some physics result from the experiments. In my 1st and 2nd year I was enjoying my work so much. I published 3 paper in 2years using some model study. But then as time passed, and I reached in my 4th and final year (now), I lost track and inspiration and motivation in my work. It is like all boring task, same thing everyday. I am also thinking to leave (without completing Ph.D). I hope this method will work out. But I don’t know what will happen to my hobbies and dream that I always had (and think of them when I am frustrated with my daily work) from my childhood to become a HAM radio operator and making DIY circuits at home. I think those dreams of mine will never be fulfilled as I grow older and older and would be busy with my profession.

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