Most of the time I hear many researchers complaining that they don’t have time to do research. They always feel time is running out of their hands. All of us have 24-hours in a day. But, why does it seem that some researchers are able to get the most out of every minute of the day and finish their Ph.D. within stipulated time, while others feel they are beleaguered with hell amount of work and lost somewhere. Believe it or not, those who do Ph.D. within time don’t have any magical wand to slow down time. However, they know how to properly manage their research time. Let me share few of the methods which one can follow and can get unbelievable results.
Before managing the research time we should practice keeping track of all the activities of our day today life. This will in turn help us to know where time can be extracted for research and how best it can be utilized. Most importantly, time tracking can help you to think more clearly about how you spend your time. You can see at a glance where you are spending too much time in one area and not enough in others and also find patterns in your behavior.
1. Track yourself
Tracking your day today activities is a simple exercise. It will give you valuable insights about your actions which you have never noticed. It brings moment-to-moment awareness to the actions you take in the area of your life which you want to change. You can’t make the most of who you are—your talents and resources and capabilities—until you are aware of and accountable for your actions. Every professional player keep track of the actions they perform on the field : As an example, in the game of cricket, every batsmen keep track of their eye movement with the ball, the field view they can see before every ball, the speed with which they run their first run , second or third run etc. Professional cricketers know how to adjust their performances based on what they’ve tracked. They pay attention to what they record and make changes accordingly. They know when their stats improve they perform better and get more playing assignments. At any given instance one should be aware of how well we are performing. You consider yourself as a valuable object of interest. Regardless of whether you think you’re aware of your habits or not, just start tracking. Doing so will totally make your life different, and ultimately, your lifestyle.
2. Control Your Time
As you are interested in controlling your time and use it effectively for research your task is to write down every iota of time you are spending without doing any major work —reading news paper for long duration, chat with your friends, tea time with your colleagues, Whatsapp or Facebook chats, watching serials or cricket matches on TV; all add up. Unless tracked, they’re easy to dismiss or forget because they are really unnoticeable. By these simple and small action you will be surprised to see how merely becoming conscious of your actions begins to shape new thoughts. You’ll find yourself asking, “Do I really have to spend time on this extra tea time?” Do I have to read that political news that won’t make any difference to my life?”. Turn down the Tea offer every day, Read news paper only for 10 minutes ( that too only relevant content) and in a little more than one month, you have one extra day for your research.
3. Improve your Concentration
Most of the researchers feel that though they have time and sit infront of laptop they cannot focus on the subject or loose interest within short duration. By improving concentration one can get more quality time for their research. Perform a simple exercise of concentration everyday to improve it. Light a candle in a dimly lit room. Sit up straight with your legs folded in the fashion of a yoga asana and stare at the candle flame as long as possible thinking about nothing. It is going to be very difficult initially but gradually your time and focus will increase and so will your level of concentration.
Improvement in concentration in turn help you to have quality time for your research though the time available may be less.
4. Identify Your Best Time of Research
Every human being has some specific hours of the day where his/her performance is at the peak. During these hours creative and innovative ideas emerge. These are your peak hours. Identifying these peak hours is a challenging task but if you are willing , you will find it within a day or two. Try identifying them to get the maximum results out of your time. It is relatively easy for few researchers to work after 9 pm where as some may feel morning 5-7 am is the best to grasp and get new ideas for their work. All this depends on the individual’s work habit. Therefore identifying your peak hours is important.
5. Research with a Researcher
Rather than living in a cubical with your eyes on the laptop all day, grab a fellow researcher (preferably working under your supervisor) from your domain of research or any other domain of research and interact with him. Working with other researchers helps you to engage and process the information more deeply. It will beget new ideas quickly and solve the problems which might have been languishing for months together. Moreover you can release your work stress and increase your quality time.
6. Empty Time
In our daily life, we may need to wait for long hours for certain work to be done or travel for long distance. These waiting time or travel time are the times which go as waste without any work. These times are empty time spaces in our day. Empty time space is your travel to your institution by bus/cab, back to home, long journey in bus/train/flight, waiting outside supervisor’s/principal office. We have all been given huge empty times and we simply let their power go to waste. I am not saying that, you push work into every available moment. On the other side of it, these empty spaces are the oasis of innovation and knowledge creation. Use your empty space for getting things done in a planned proactive manner. If you’re waiting in your supervisor’s office, this may be a good time to read a recent paper published or start thinking of an unorthodox solution for a challenging research problem. This may result in innovative ideas for research.
7. Avoid Multitasking
Many researchers feel they can take multiple tasks together and complete them quickly, but on the other side of it they are spending more time when they do them together. The reason being, one can not really focus on anything when one does multiple tasks together. The FOCUS problem begins with multitasking. Every time we switch to another task, our brain tries to focus on the new task this time. So, we get tired and loose our energy.
Think about it: You want work on writing a research paper and and write code for the new algorithm you have planned for. You will be thinking about introduction paragraph of your paper and suddenly if you switch over to writing code, your writing flow suddenly stops and when you come back to writing, to get the old flow it needs time. When you again go back to coding you need to adjust yourself with coding constructs once again. The problem is that changing tasks means you have to give your brain time to refocus. That refocusing eats up time whenever you change tasks.
By handling each task separately a researcher can easily focus on one task and finish it more quickly. Multitasking is not as useful as we think, rather it is a time consuming step. My sincere suggestion is to prioritize tasks and accomplish and make them happen in order.