My Top 3 Dissertation Management Tools

I experimented with various productivity and management tools when I wrote my dissertation. There were 3 tools that were always in my arsenal. This post details my top 3 dissertation management tools and how I used them.

Tool 1: Google Calendar

Google Calendar has been my go-to calendar for over 10 years.  My favorite aspects of this tool are creating multiple calendars and having shared calendars. While other calendars have such features, I remain loyal to my Google Calendar mainly out of habit and not finding another tool that better fits my needs. I use Google Calendar on my laptop and on my smartphone.

How I used it for my dissertation:

I created a dedicated calendar for my dissertation. Since I have multiple Google calendars, I only put in major deadlines and larger benchmark goals in my Dissertation Google Calendar. This way, I could get a visual overview of my dissertation writing trajectory without clogging up my calendar with detailed tasks.

My Google Calendar with only my ‘Dissertation’ Calendar turned on.

Tool 2: Todoist

For my detailed tasks, I used the task management app Todoist. Todoist takes a normal list of tasks and allows you to apply a range of customizations. Some useful features include assigning due dates (and reminders), creating projects and sub-projects for tasks, and allowing for recurring tasks (daily, workdays, monthly, etc.). My favorite feature is the smart language recognition system, which makes adding tasks super easy. I use Todoist on my laptop and phone, as well as in my browser and e-mail (to quickly turn sites or e-mails into tasks).

How I used it for my dissertation:

I created a project called ‘Dissertation’. Then I created a sub-project for each chapter and general edits. As I was working on chapters, I would create lists of detailed tasks based my goals for that chapter.

In my edits sub-project, I initially put tasks that I wanted to remember as I completed and edited chapters and sections (e.g., create a certain graphic, check if ‘in press’ references were published, add a person to acknowledgments, etc.). Towards the end of my writing, it was where I managed all my edits.

Todoist can be integrated into Google Calendar. When I wanted to visual my tasks in calendar form, I would simply turn on my Todoist in Google Calendar. I didn’t do this often, but I appreciated that the function was there.

A recreation of my Todoist for my dissertation.

Tool 3: Moleskine Notebook

I am a big fan of digital management tools. However, when I started to write my dissertation I discovered I needed a notebook. It was such a useful tool to gather my thoughts, especially when I didn’t want to look at my laptop or phone. My preferred notebook is an XXL Moleskine with grid paper. Even though it is a simple tool, it was highly effective and always in my bag.

How I used it for my dissertation:

I only kept one (not overly organized) notebook. I used my notebook to brainstorm ideas, map out tasks before putting them in my Todoist or Google Calendar, and draw outlines. I’m a visual person. Having a dedicated space to visualize rough ideas was extremely useful throughout my writing process. It also helped fuel my creativity.

One of my more legible pages from my Moleskine. Here I am working on my GIS analysis and mapping out some processes for myself.

My Google Calendar, Todoist, and Moleskine notebook were my top 3 dissertation management tools. They helped me to get and stay organized, especially in my last year of my Ph.D. program. If you are looking for more tips, check out my curated page on dissertation advice.

What are your top organization and task management tools? Let me know in the comments below!

The header image is a stock photo.

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Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.



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