Many people think that a schedule is rigid, inflexible and generally inhibits them from doing all the things that they want to do. However, when balancing a professional and personal life, a good schedule helps to allocate time to complete the most important activities. Schedules also can reduce stress by helping to decide what learners can and cannot do when there is limited time.
There are five things to remember when developing a schedule:
- The support of family is critical. Make a schedule well in advance to ensure participation in birthday and anniversary celebrations and other family events. These special events reinforce and strengthen the family bond. Do not miss them.
- Previously in undergraduate and graduate programs, it may have been possible to write an individual assignment the night before the due date; it is not possible to do this successfully at the doctoral level. Scholarly writing at the doctoral level requires synthesis and reflection, which requires substantially more time. Therefore, doctoral learners should plan to finish the first draft of an individual paper at least two days before the due date. This will provide an additional opportunity to reflect and edit the initial draft of the paper.
- Weekends provide time for both studying and for family activities. For example, some doctoral learners choose to wake up early on both Saturday and Sunday and work from 5 a.m. to noon. Blocking off time in the morning potentially allows free time for family, personal or other professional activities from noon to 5 p.m. Then, if more time is needed to study, read or write, doctoral learners can use part of the weekend evening. Other learners may prefer to use Saturday and Sunday mornings and weekend afternoons as free time to shop, play and interact with others. This schedule allows learners to allocate several hours later in the day for their studies.
- Consistency and persistence are critical to success. Doctoral learners should think of themselves as athletes preparing for a marathon, which requires practice and commitment every day. Therefore, they should read, write or study every day. There will be days when unexpected events occur and completely derail the schedule; however, just as dedicated athletes recover and make the best of the situation by completing a partial workout, so should learners. Each day, learners should spend at least 45 minutes reading or reviewing a draft. Completing even a small task will help learners to make progress. It also will help to reduce personal stress by accomplishing something on a day that was not very productive.
- Each week, doctoral learners will be exposed to a variety of perspectives, philosophies and research approaches that will broaden their own understanding of the foundation principles of their discipline. Assigned course readings, student discussions and independent readings provide a wealth of information that may be difficult to internalize without first spending quiet time to reflect on the linkage and importance of these resources. Therefore, learners should schedule at least 45 minutes of quiet time each week to reflect on what they have read and consider what seems interesting or unexpected. Learners should ask themselves, “What do I not know?” Learners should never conclude this session without identifying three things that need to be investigated. Spending weekly quiet time in this manner can provide great personal growth by helping to make sense of similar and yet conflicting theories and approaches that are presented in the literature. Understanding the differences in the literature is the first step in the identification of a dissertation topic.
This post is an excerpt from “Find Your Purpose: The Path to a Successful Doctoral Experience” by Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies. If you would like to learn more about our eBook or exploring programs in the College of Doctoral Studies, please fill out this form.