Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Planning time for research

Useful tips for time management that will enable you to plan time for research
Photograph of an alarm clock

Time management strategies

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.“

Mark Twain

Effective time management will be crucial for those of you planning to balance your existing commitments alongside a new role in research. Poor time management can cause stress, irritability and negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. It is, therefore, important to really work on your time management skills, as this will support you along your research journey.

Here are some useful starter tips to get you thinking about how to manage your time effectively during the day:

  • Write a list of your tasks: writing your tasks on paper can help you to visualise your work and can be an effective way of achieving clarity of mind when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Try to prioritise tasks day-by-day: to help prioritise your list of tasks, try to define your tasks into categories of urgent and important, not urgent but important, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important.
  • Tackle the difficult challenges first or consider when you are at your best: As Mark Twain says, “eat the biggest one [frog] first” or perhaps when you are hungrier. You will know when you work at your best depending on the nature of the task, the time of day and any other meetings and activities that you have in your schedule. Use this insight to your advantage.
  • Assign times in your day when you will look at emails: Managing emails can be a challenge, particularly if you cover multiple roles. To avoid emails becoming a distraction from your other work, try to set a specific time aside during the day to check your emails.

Also apply the following rules of delete, do, delegate and defer (the 4Ds):

  • Delete: you can probably delete half the emails you get immediately
  • Do: if the email is urgent or can be completed quickly
  • Delegate: if the email can be better dealt with by someone else
  • Defer: set aside time later to spend on emails that will take longer to deal with
  • Assign times in your day when you answer team queries: As with emails, answering queries from your team can be a time-consuming and absorbing activity. Where possible take control of your time and respond to queries at a particular time of the day.
  • Consider if the task needs to be done now and/or by you: When a new task emerges, consider whether it is urgent (see ‘Try to prioritise tasks day-by-day’ to support with prioritisation). If possible, delegate responsibility for the task if you think someone else would be better placed to undertake the task.
  • Try to plan ahead: Where possible plan ahead so that you can schedule appropriate time to plan, undertake and reflect on certain tasks. Make use of calendar apps and functions linked to your email inbox. Share your calendar with others in your team so that they are aware of your availability.
  • Mind set: a large part of time management is being in the right mindset to plan your time and carry out your tasks as planned. Add some flexibility into your plan in case new tasks emerge. A good plan can make a huge difference.

Which of the tips above can you put into practice this week and how? Comment below and see which tips other learners are going to put into practice.

© Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
This article is from the free online

Starting Out in Health and Social Care Research

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now