Search
  • Madeline Topf

The first week in my PhD lab.

I officially joined my new lab last week!


I’m really overwhelmed and I don’t know how to start. Starting anything is tricky. The goals are ambiguous, and so is the process, because I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what to read or do next. It's paralyzing. I’ll just have to START. There is nothing else to do. Struggle, confusion, feelings of inadequacy, they’re all just part of the PhD process. I’m trying to take these feelings in stride, to learn from them and improve.


I’ve spent the past week organizing: my thoughts, my apartment, and my calendar. I’ve debuted a new technique called the Franklin Planner which I wrote about in a past post. This method has you write down EVERYTHING you want to accomplish, which is a real brain-cleaner. Then, you prioritize each task by A (must do) B (could do) or C (low priority) and then number your letters by sub-priority.


The Franklin method may seem frivolous; however, it really allows you to identify the highest priority items for the day so you are sure you are working on what is important. The method also suggests scheduling time with yourself to work on things that really matter. For me, that was reading papers. It’s hard to find the time when there are immediate things to do, like email. But staying on top of the literature is super important, so I scheduled it for the week to make sure I’m budgeting time for it. I think I’ll do the same with things like reviewing my project & goals, updating my lab notebook, and organizing my files on the server.


I hope these organizational tips are helpful for you to START. Let’s get it!

Recent Posts

See All

I participated in a study last week. It was called the “Healthy Minds” study. They read me the release form. They told me there was a surprise during the study. They said there was going to be a Stre

When we start graduate school, we are alone. We all are, usually, alone in our own labs, huddling over our piles of work that are too big for the day. But really it takes one person to look up and aro