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Planning tips 3. Plan on a Friday

This image friday feeling belongs to Jonny Hughes Flickr Creative Commons Licence.

Here’s another piece of advice that I received as a novice researcher, from Dr Karen Carpenter: Plan on a Friday, not a Monday. My immediate response was What?! But planning on a Monday is my nice relaxing introduction to the week ahead, and how am I going to relax at the weekend if I’ve started the mental cogs whirring on Friday? No way! However I knew that Karen was an experienced and very sensible person, so why shouldn’t I trust her and give it an honest go, despite my scepticism?

So when Friday came and I was just winding down for the weekend ahead I remembered my pledge to myself. I simply decided what I needed to on Monday and made a list. I then added slightly to the list with other items for the following week. And then? And then I went home. Monday morning came and I found my list on my desk and made a start. By the time lunch time came I found I’d achieved more than usual and I hadn’t been distracted by my emails.

I tried it again the following week and realised that far from it making me stress over the weekend it actually helped deal with stress. If something popped into my mind I was able to tell myself to relax, that it was on the list and could be dealt with next week. It was great!

The following Friday I forgot, and I forgot for quite a few Fridays after that as well. New habits are hard to create aren’t they? But one Friday, during a particularly busy time and a time that I was finding it hard to relax when not working, I remembered Karen’s advice. I felt conflicted, I just wanted to go home. Then I also remembered how nice it had been to feel free for the weekend (or as free as any PhD student feels from their research). So I wrote my list for Monday, and so began the creation of a career habit. I even began to look forward to planning on a Friday and instead of rushing off exhausted at the week's end, I experienced a feeling of excited anticipation of the freedom of the weekend, and the satisfaction of knowing that I could walk in on Monday and get straight down to work.

So if you’re following a planning process like I recommended in February, this will probably be part of your short-term process. I also jot down at the end of every day the task that I’m going to work on first the following day, BEFORE I read any emails. The same applies if you’re going on holiday, plan a few concrete things that you’re going to do when you get back (again, before you read any emails) before you go. Enjoy your time off, secure in the knowledge that you’ve got a plan.

Karen Carpenter if you’re reading this, thank you!

Image attribution: Friday feeling. Jonny Hughes. Flickr.

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