Keeping up vs getting ahead

By James Hayton,
October 15, 2019
James Hayton is a former physicist, PhD coach and author of "PhD: An uncommon guide"
Since 2010, he's coached hundreds of individual PhD students and now offers
group support and online courses

When you have a million things to do, it's easy to end up doing everything at the last minute. In other words, you only turn your attention to a task once it becomes urgent.

The best you can hope for is to keep up, but you have very little room for error or experimentation. You'll do it the way you know how, and if you don't know how then you'll fall behind. This is no way to develop your skills or get control of your project.

The alternative is to try to get ahead on at least a few tasks or projects before they're almost due.

You won't get ahead of everything, at least not at first, but you can try to get ahead of something. Something important but not yet urgent.

There may be practical reasons why this is difficult, but the biggest barrier is usually mental. If you look at a task and think, "I don't have to do that yet", then you're actively choosing the stressful path.

See also:

That thing you just don't feel like doing

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