I (Andrew) have written a few relevant posts on this already:
How to Be Productive
From Work-Life Balance to Like-Dislike Optimization
The rest of the ideas below are from a diversity of students in the DRYBAR labs - each paragraph in each grouping is generally from a different person.
I make to do lists for separate subjects/areas of my life and most days work on my main focus (job/school) but every few days I'll take a day and do a bunch of little things from the other areas so I don't get too behind in them. It also helps that I focus all on the same thing one day so I remember things a bit better because I'm working on related tasks.
Having a weekly to-do list versus a daily to-do list helps me achieve a work-life balance. On Sunday evening, I make a list of tasks I wish to complete over the course of the next 7 days, and in my physical planner I break them down into smaller, daily activities. Even though I have a long list in front of me, subdividing tasks into smaller components spread over multiple days, allows me to feel I am advancing towards my goals. Thus, after I have achieved some items on my daily task list, I am content and can come home with small victories. Outside the office and lab, I can relax knowing tomorrow will be just as productive as today.
I mostly try to focus on one thing at a time, but still reserve some time to work on something else. This allows me to get a break from my main activity while working on something that will be my main activity later on.
Be sure to take holidays and don't feel guilty about it. Do what works for you. Try things out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it won't.
Environment is also very important to me, depending on what I'm doing. If I'm writing or reading I like to go to the library in my neighborhood where there is complete silence so I can focus. Oddly enough, the coffee shop also works for me because there is so much noise that it all counteracts each other.
My office today while writing up a (pre)History of the #WorldsGreatestEcoEvoExpt pic.twitter.com/xYDBrtVG4T— Andrew Hendry (@EcoEvoEvoEco) July 21, 2019
Commute by bike! Almost always saves time. Also improves mental and physical health (which saves time indirectly). Managing work time is perhaps less important than managing time off. Make sure you get enough time off, and that it is is well spent doing things that make you happy and recharged for working again. Binge-watching Netflix might feel good in the moment, but can often make you feel like crap afterwards so you won’t feel rejuvenated and motivated to go back to work.
I keep myself productive and happy as a researcher by taking frequent breaks throughout the day. Besides needing to rest my eyes after looking at a screen for prolonged periods of time, that downtime gives me an extra boost of energy to finish my task at hand. This often takes the form of brewing a cup of coffee or tea, or calling my parents to check-in. In the spirit of the Pomodoro technique, I like to take a long break after 1 hour of continuous work.
One thing I also find important, personally, is taking a "chill" or mental health day where I watch my favorite movies and lounge around etc. I struggle with this sometimes because you feel guilty for "doing nothing" all day however doing nothing once in a while can be a good thing!
In general, switching between activities also keeps my brain stimulated and prevents me from feeling bogged down. For instance, I tend to dedicate my mornings to reading papers and answering emails, and in the afternoons I prefer to do lab work. I push forward with my morning tasks as I look forward to the exciting lab work I have planned for later on in the day.