For the past fortnight, I've been time-tabling my time on study days (Monday-Friday). It was something I've known for a while would help to increase my productivity, but at a cost of sponteneity and a sense of freedom. I used to do it in the later years of high school, and it worked well, but meant that I wasn't very spontaneous or social. So for several months I resisted the idea of getting back into that way of being. But I realised that a lack of structure also had its own associated stresses for me - ironically, I was increasingly coming to feel like I had no control over my time, because every minute could be thesis time! And, my notes and texts and forms were all getting jumbled on my desk, and it was all seeming to get more and more out of control.
I think the main problem is that I LOVE to read, and I LOVE to garden, and I LOVE to make things, and I LOVE to hang out with my loved ones, ... well the point here is that there are many things that I love, and they could theoretically fill all my time. But doing a Phd also involves things that are less fun, like writing up my notes (way less interesting than reading new material), organising my materials (again, less interesting than other stuff), etc. So, some things simply weren't getting done - there was always something more fun to do.
I was getting stressed, though, cos these "unfinished" things were all mentally filed away somewhere in my head as "things I should have done." It's like that some people can work quite happily like that, either getting through with a degree of disorganisation, or just knowing how to work things out for themselves. But it was driving me nuts!
So I've been experimenting with making lists every morning (what a treat! I LOVE making lists! ticking things off is such a delight!), dividing up my time, usually with a few hours of unstructured time (before 9, around lunch and early evening) to do whatever I please. That allows me a degree of sponteneity, and if something comes up during "work" time, I have some flexibility to shift time around. And, I take notes at the end of each day on how my timetabling worked out in practice (e.g. "Need a full half-hour to get ready for and then get to pilates;" "needed two-hour block, not one-hour block, for writing", etc).
It's working so far. I feel like I have MORE time to do what I want. Which is cool. We'll see if after a while it feels draconian or imprisoning. But I'm definitely getting more work done and my stress levels are way better, so that's it's thumbs up so far.