The PhD Files: The ‘Magnificent Planning Chart’

One of the most important parts of any big project is the planning. I say this as someone who believes in the power of a list. In fact, whenever I’m spinning a lot of plates at once, making a list can be the difference between a slick and completed task, or a stressed and hurried one. And believe me when I say, I’ve been at the business-end of both of these, and I know which I prefer.

When it comes to getting your PhD research together, cleverly organised lists can be your best friend. They can prevent scrambling through books looking for elusive chapters, and forgetting where you found that really important quotation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t figure this out straight away. It took me some time before the penny finally dropped that I was going to need somewhere to order all of my quotations and ideas if I was going to get anywhere fast with my actual writing. I had my fair share of sitting, staring blankly into space, bereft at losing something thrilling. Then one day, out of the blue, it hit me. If I expected to keep a cool head, I needed a ‘Magnificent Planning Chart’ – and so it began.

I am sure the really tech-savvy amongst you will now have a brilliant idea in mind for something colour-coded and digitised. Something that stays on your computer, taking up no space. I’m afraid, in my case, you’d be wrong. My ‘Magnificent Planning Chart’ consisted of good, old-fashioned paper, a few reels of sticky-tape, and a packet of highlighters. I attached all of the notes I had taken so far, bit by bit, sticking together the sheets as I went. I cut out, I stuck, sometimes I glued, and by the end, I had a magnificently highlighted, colour-coded chart that I could refer to at a glance. The best part was, all of my notes and thoughts were out of my head. They were in front of me, in all their glory (well, okay, they weren’t all glorious, but they were there).

I can’t tell you how much my chart helped me when it came to writing, and the best part was, I could add to it as I went. Sure, when unfurled it took up a lot of floor-space, but it meant I no longer had a mad scramble through endless books every time I needed to refer to something.

Perhaps, for you, the ‘Magnificent Planning Chart’ would look very different to mine. Instead of paper, maybe it would be on your computer. Maybe it would be on the wall, or a pinboard. However your perfect chart might look to you, I can’t stress enough how much having one helped me to order my ideas in one place. It became so precious to me that I couldn’t possibly part with it, even when I was lucky enough to complete my PhD. It had become a real friend, with me through the highs and lows. It’s fair to say my lovely chart saved me on more than one occasion, and I’m sure it could do the same for you.

Speaking of saving time and sanity, don’t forget that I’m here for all of your editing needs. I promise to try to be as useful as a ‘Magnificent Planning Chart’. See you next time, and happy writing.

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