Living Your Priorities

Six steps to living your priorities:

  1. Determine the period of time you’ll focus on.
  2. Schedule deadlines.
  3. Schedule ideal delivery dates.
  4. Allocate time to your ideal work at the ideal time for you.
  5. Know your measures of success.
  6. Plan your celebration/reward.


Hi there riders, bakers, and rock stars! Depending on your age and status in terms of research activity, different things become different priorities at parts of your research career.

So as a PhD student, early on you’re about understanding the literature, then you shift to collecting data, then you shift to writing it all up as a thesis or as a series of journal articles that comprise your thesis. As an early career researcher, you’re probably about again, collecting data but also simultaneously trying to write publications and write grants. So, you can become ultimately an independent researcher separate from another research group or lab. So, you don’t have to do the endless postdoc treadmill. As a researcher head or a group head, perhaps your focus shifts from collecting data because now you’ve got students and postdocs to help you, and instead you’re worried about writing articles or writing grants or connecting with industry partners.

So, today I wanted to ask you a series of questions. What’s your priority for the next I don’t know, 12 to 15 weeks? What we might think of the next 3 or 4 months? I want you to take the next 5 minutes to answer these questions.

So, firstly like I said, what should be your focus over the next few months? So, you could be writing it could be reading. It could be you know, for some of you it might be promoting some content on social media. It could be thinking about your work and how it fits into the larger whole. It could be data analysis. It could be data collection. It could be conducting experiments. So, what is your focus over the next 3 months. 

Then the next question to ask yourself, when are you going to schedule these activities in your work week or in your week as a whole to make sure that you get them done, to signify to yourself, and perhaps to others that these are your priority tasks for the next few months? What can shift in order to allow you to get your priority done? What you should shift in order to get your priority done? And also, what can’t shift, what has to stay the same, what can’t move? You know, that to me could be perhaps some teaching requirements. Some markings requirements. It could be meeting with your staff or your students as well.

So, the 3rd thing is how will you know that you’ve done a good job of prioritizing these tasks? Or some might call this the measure of success. How will you know what is the measure of success going to be for you? So, for some people that might be an end product. Say a submitted article, a published thesis, a submitted grant. For other people, it might just be a streak. It might be that you read for 15 minutes every day for 5 days a week for 3 months. It could be that you collected data every day in the same way or that you analyze data. Or that you’ve finished the analysis. Or that you’ve got a figure. But whatever it is you need to know what your measure of success will be and so, therefore how you’ll know that you’ve you know you’ve reached your target. 

And finally, and I think quite importantly for academics, something that we overlook often is how are you going to celebrate your success. At the end of the 3 months, when you look back and you see you know, your measure of success indicates you’ve reached your goal, your plan, your target. How will you celebrate that success? What are you going to do? What’s your reward for prioritizing and then sticking to your plan? So, bakers, writers, and rock stars, there are some ideas on how you might prioritize the next 3 months of activity. 

Good luck as you go. And if you need some help, feel free to reach out and ask.