Tips on improving time management

October 2018 by Erum Razvi, Biochemistry PhD candidate in Dr. P. Lynne Howell’s lab at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto

Managing my time well is something I have forever been improving on throughout my life. For me, this past year has certainly been busy; being a PhD student working on a GlycoNet-funded project, planning my wedding, moving to a new home, and serving as Chair of the GTA-EC. It was not easy juggling it all, but I am proud to say I was able to achieve all of my goals. How was I able to do it?

Here are 10 tips I learned from friends, family, and social media when it comes to time management.

1. Make and prioritize a to-do list. I like writing things down and having a calendar to keep things organized. I find having a to-do list app on your smart phone is great because you can remember what it is that you need to do on the go. However, to-do lists can become overwhelming, making it difficult to know what to start with. I learned about the Eisenhower Matrix, which is a method of dividing tasks into importance and urgency, helping you to efficiently plan your day.

2. Allocate enough time to complete your tasks. Often, tasks, especially experiments, do not take as long as anticipated. When planning how long it will take to complete something, give yourself some extra time in case of any unexpected issues, and so you do not feel rushed. Do not give yourself too many things to do in a day, you may end up feeling burnt out.

3. Get rid of distractions. For me, my smartphone can be a huge distraction. Put your phone out of sight and on silent when you really need to focus. Work in an area that is most comfortable for you; be it in an area with soft background noise, or pin-drop silence.

4. Get enough sleep and have a healthy lifestyle. It makes the biggest difference in the ability to focus and problem solve.

5. Take breaks. Do not feel like you have to power through everything. We are humans, not machines. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Taking breaks helps revitalize the mind and improve creativity. I found giving myself at least one day of the week, typically Saturday, to rest and have fun greatly improves my productivity on working days. When working, it is often said that ideally, for every 20 minutes of working, take a break for a few minutes.

6. Surround yourself with a positive and encouraging support system. Having friends and family around you who help reassure and comfort you are integral in maintaining motivation. If someone or something is getting in the way of you completing your tasks, it is time to re-evaluate their purpose in your life.

7. Go to bed early and wake up early. As a night owl, this is something I still struggle with. But the days where I have woken up early, I feel such an improvement in my mood and efficiency to complete tasks. This habit is one that I consistently hear the world’s most successful people follow.

8. Learn to say no. Personally, this was the hardest habit for me to instill. There are many great opportunities out there, but if you say yes to everything, you will spread yourself out thin. Always remember to put quality over quantity.

9. Do not be hard on yourself, give yourself credit. Sometimes guilt can sink in if not everything on a to-do list is done, resulting in feelings of discouragement. Follow your to-do list to the best of your ability and be proud of what you were able to achieve.

10. Be positive. Times can get rough when things are not working or when there are many deadlines. Being optimistic helps to make tasks less mundane and more enjoyable.

These tips have played a huge role in helping me manage my time, and I am certain they will also help you in achieving your goals. Work hard, and work smart!



Erum Razvi is a Biochemistry PhD candidate in Dr. P. Lynne Howell’s lab at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Erum first served as the Communications Officer on the 2016-2017 GlycoNet Trainee Association Executive Committee (GTA-EC). She later transitioned as Chair of the 2017-2018 GTA-EC.

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