Every single ‘top ten pieces of advice for Ph D students’ type articles says something about using a reference manager. It’s advice that’s easy to ignore when you’re starting out because you’re already trying to learn a million and one new things, but heed my warning from the future – not using one is currently very painful.When your goal is to produce an 80,000 word thesis, it can be tempting – and at times sensible – to measure your time and productivity in terms of how many words you’ve written.
Some of the most productive parts of my Ph D-ing have been going for coffees with colleagues to talk through a problem, drawing out mind maps of a chapter plan, or cutting and pasting chunks of text to try and get my argument to come through effectively.
Equally important have been things like going to a yoga class or going for a walk, things where I shut my Ph D brain up completely return to a particularly challenging section of my chapter fresh.
I did briefly engage in a flirtation with Endnote, but I didn’t stick with it long enough.
I had a fleeting dalliance with Mendeley, but I was non-committal.
At those times I’ve cursed ‘past me’ and wished that I had a time machine to go back and warn myself.
If I did possess the requisite time-travel technology, there are five top pieces of advice I’d give myself.
This is where wiggle-room comes in – planning in an afternoon, or a day, or even a couple of hours, in which you will deal with the random things that crop up in your work life as a researcher.
By actually allowing time to deal with those things, they won’t throw off your deadline.
It wasn’t until a colleague saw a copy of my planner that I’d pinned to my office wall that I realised there were pretty big issues.
This wall planner accounted for every day of the month and planned out tasks to allow me to complete a second draft of a thesis chapter by the end of that month.