Lily May Toomey
How I Made My PhD Completion Plan on Excel (With a Free Template)
Updated: Apr 17
For the last few weeks, I've been working on my PhD completion plan. It's basically an excel spreadsheet that I'm using to track my progress and plan my time for the remainder of my PhD. My thesis is due August of next year (with a 6 month extension) so the clock is definitely ticking. But what started as a quick and basic gantt chart has quickly turned into a more complicated excel spreadsheet - and I love it so much I thought I'd share it with you all!
If you want to skip to downloading the excel template I've created, go straight to the bottom of this post, but if you want to see how I made the document and how to use it, then keep on reading!
Basically, to make the Gantt charts I followed this Youtube tutorial:
I really wanted a Gantt chart that showed percentage progress as well as a general timeline, so I thought this tutorial was really useful for showing me how to do this!
If you start playing around with the Gantt charts in the template I've provided and run into any difficulties, particularly with things like changing the dates displayed on each chart, this is a good reference point as to how to fix problems that may arise. But of course, if you reach out to me for assistance with editing the spreadsheet, I'll do my best to help too!
The basic set up is that I have a colour coded table to the left of each Gantt chart within my file, that lists off each task with both my planned dates and my actual dates of start and completion for each task. Therefore, as I go along, if the dates that I actually do things don't correlate with my planned timeline, then I have a space to put the new dates down without losing my originally planned timeline. Basically, this set up allows me to have two options for what my Gantt chart looks like, I have the "Plan" view and the "Actual" view. I also have a column for % completion, so that on the "Actual" Gantt chart, it'll show me how far through I am with each task with a dark bar.
As I said, this all allows me to have two options for what my Gantt chart looks like, with both a planned and an actual dates option, I can control what I'm seeing on the chart using this nifty little drop down box:
By picking either actual or plan from the drop down box, it changes the display of the Gantt chart and what values come up in the second table entitled "Data Prep". You don't need to enter anything in the Data Prep table or do anything to it, it's all set up to get all the information it needs from the colour-coded table.
Then the sheet is set up to automatically create a Gantt chart like this one:
I've colour coded the chart based on three PhD Aims and general thesis writing. You'll notice that the dark bars indicate my percentage progress like I mentioned earlier, so if a bar is half way across, then the task is 50% complete. However, this will only show on the actual view, not the plan view.
If you change the dates for any of the planned or actual dates, it'll automatically update the Data Prep table and the corresponding Gantt chart.
Within the document, I have an overall Gantt chart to chart the whole PhD, but then I've also made tabs for each aim, where you can break each task down into smaller more actionable tasks and have a Gantt chart that displays those in detail. I've personally found this really useful so that I can both get an overall picture of my PhD, but also go into more detail for each aim or project when I need it.
I've also included a "Calendar View" option tab in the document. I don't think there's a way to automatically import dates of all your various tasks into the calendar, so you'll have to do it manually if this is a set up that would be beneficial for you. But personally, I liked being able to plan my day to day out on a calendar in order to know when I could put down tasks as planning to be performed on my Gantt charts. So I filled this calendar view out before I did any date planning on the charts. I obviously colour code these tasks for each aim and then general thesis writing in the same colours I've used to make the overall Gantt chart to make things easier to navigate and know what's going on at first glance.
I haven't included this in the template, but in my personal PhD completion plan document, I also have more tabs with experimental information like my immunohistochemistry antibody panels, so that I can quickly refer back to them while I'm looking at the timelines of completing my lab work for each project.
To access the most up-to-date version of this free template, head to my business website at: https://www.pitchscience.com.au/phd-completion-excel-gantt-template
(Don't worry – it's still 100% free and easily accessible!)
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