Often considered the domain of tech entrepreneurs and lifestyle gurus, a few well-chosen productivity ‘hacks’ and habits can really boost your thesis and help you maintain momentum during your PhD.
What do athletes, entrepreneurs, nutritionists and your mum all agree on? That eating breakfast is the best way to start your day. And they’re right. You might feel like you should roll out of bed and into your desk chair, but you should start off with a big glass of water and a decent breakfast. Your body and mind will be primed for the day.
Set the scene
A huge part of productivity is your work environment. You might think you don’t have time to declutter your desk, but if you have a clean workspace you’ll feel productive and get less distracted. It’s important to set up a space at home that’s dedicated to work: don’t play computer games or Skype your overseas friends from your work desk. Send your brain the signal that sitting down here means business.
If you’re easily distracted, it’s time to play hardball. Install StayFocusd—a free Chrome extension that stops you from accessing any distracting sites during specified hours. You might lock yourself out of Facebook and Buzzfeed and find yourself with an hour or two more time each day. If your weakness is TV, hide the remote. If you can work without the internet, turn the Wi-Fi off. If you make it difficult to do distracting things, you’ll find that you won’t fall into them quite so readily.
Pomodoro is not so much an app as a way of being (but there’s an app as well). It’s a very simple way of keeping you focused and getting yourself really productive. You just set a timer for a 25-minute session of work. That’s it. The timer goes off after the time and you get a short break (five minutes). After four pomodoros, you get a long break (10 minutes). You’ll be amazed at just how much you can get done in 25 minutes, and how amazing your focus is when you know you’re on a deadline, even if it’s self-imposed.
Turn off your alerts
If you get a buzz every time you get a text, tweet, like or post, it’s time to wean yourself off the instant hit. Turn off all notifications from your screen and learn to switch your phone to aeroplane mode when you’re working. Keeping focus is hard and constant breaks in your concentration don’t help, so make it easier on yourself.
Are you constantly logging into accounts and forgetting which password you used? All of us use a ton of passwords every day. Avoid having to reset passwords by installing LastPass, a password manager that creates a strong randomised password for each of your accounts and then stores them for you. You only have to remember one password to unlock any account, saving you time and protecting your online data.
Eat the frog first
If you have to do something that will be difficult, unpleasant or annoying, do it first thing. This is the ‘eat the frog first’ philosophy (which is attributed to Mark Twain): if you have to eat a frog, do it first thing so you won’t spend your day anticipating it (and everything else will be better by comparison). This makes your day far pleasanter and more productive.
It might be the last thing you consider productive, but getting enough high quality sleep underpins the rest of your productiveness. Set a regular bedtime and make sure you have a tech curfew (going to bed after staring at a screen is no good for you). Your bedroom should ideally be cool, dark and quiet. Sleeping well improves the quality of your health, mood, mind and ultimately your thesis, so don’t sacrifice it!