Learning to multiplex tasks
Catch the wave or get overwhelmed by it!

An important survival skill for dealing with graduate school is getting into the right rhythm.

  • There is a right and wrong time for doing most things in life.
  • When the time is right, things come easily.
  • When it is wrong, things become hard to do, take much longer, and frustrate you and everyone around you.

How to catch the wave.

Skill 1:
Look ahead.
You are not going to catch the wave unless you look ahead and see it coming.
  • Think ahead 6 months, perhaps a year and decide what the best order of doing things is.
  • Make a time line. Revise it periodically, re-prioritizing things.
Skill 2:
Be at the right place at the right time.
Positioning yourself involves two related things:
1. selection (doing the right thing at the right time)
  • Do not let an minor item push other, more important things, aside. Drop them instead.
  • Important things are those things that have the greatest multiplier effect. For example, select experiments that are likely to open the most doors, teach you the most useful skills etc.

2. phase lead (staying well ahead of deadlines).

  • There is a time for every purpose. The problem in life is picking the right time to do a particular thing; getting the match right. All too often we find ourselves doing the right thing at the worst possible time.
  • Learn to protect your time by selecting what is important and saying no to what is not.
Skill 3:
Multiplexing tasks.
Both as a graduate student, as well as later in life, there are many waves coming at you at once. So you must learn how to run things in parallel.

Cooking a fancy dinner is a good example of a task that requires multiplexing tasks.

  • Some things can be done way before.
  • Some things must be done just before.
  • Some things can be done in parallel others must be done in series.
  • Decide which are the essential dishes and which can be omitted if you get into trouble.

Plan ahead and develop a long term time line clearly in your mind.

As in cooking, have a realistic estimate of what you can handle during your graduate studies.

Skill 4:
Plan each day.
  • Decide on a daily quitting time.
  • Looking forward to a quitting time helps you get cracking.
  • Decide what must be done.

As you probably know (or soon will) time is your most valuable commodity. Learn to use it efficiently!

The most precious time is that which is unscheduled, a time for doing what you want, not what you must (often the time your best ideas come)!

Copyright 1995
Tutis Vilis
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology
University of Western Ontario
London Ontario Canada

Created 28 Sept 1995
Last updated 10 January 2007
Comments welcome: tutis.vilis@schulich.uwo.ca