Smart time management for the overwhelmed postdoc

Look, I am an ambitious young scientist, but I don’t want to be swamped by work. Witha young family, I know all too well how challenging it can be to juggle work and personal responsibilities. I dream of doing all the science I want without sacrificing precious time with my family.

Enter: smart time management. When my wife introduced me to Motion, a smart time management app that calls itself an “AI executive assistant,” I immediately knew that was EXACTLY what I wanted.

After trying Motion out for a week, I was hooked. Although the app does cost money, I am 100% certain that it pays for itself by increasing my productivity and enabling me to achieve my goals without sacrificing quality family time.

Those two will always come first, and smart time management is key to make that work

Motion is essentially a combination of a smart calendar and a to-do list. You input your tasks, estimate how long they will take, and give each one a deadline. Then, you link the app to your calendar and specify when you don’t want to work, and let the artificial intelligence work its magic. Based on your importance rating and deadlines, Motion provides you with the best possible schedule of when to do each task.

The app shuffles your tasks in such a way that as many of them as possible get done before their deadline. It even warns you when certain tasks won’t fit in your schedule, enabling you to adjust and prioritize your to-do list. With Motion, you can swiftly work through tasks with high urgency without losing sight of your long-term plans.


I love that Motion allows you to see immediately if you’ve taken on too many tasks. You no longer have to worry about biting off more than you can chew, as the app makes it clear which tasks you’ll need to drop to stay on track. Additionally, Motion adjusts instantly to changes in your plan, ensuring that you’re always working on the most important tasks.

My schedule for next week. I’m taking two days off for Easter (we had the family holiday last week already), and leave it to the app to figure out how to arrange my tasks around it

Another great feature of Motion is that it enables you to work on low-priority tasks guilt-free, knowing that the high-priority tasks will also be taken care of. This frees up time for me to work on tasks like writing this blog post, which is definitely not a top priority, but still important to me.

Motion also helps you tackle difficult tasks that you might otherwise avoid by breaking them down into manageable chunks and showing you the reward that comes after completion. This makes it easier to stay motivated and work through challenging projects.

However, there are a few downsides to Motion. If you’re too ambitious with your task list, the app might not be able to schedule certain tasks at all, even with a two-week delay. The AI tends to then simply abandon these asks, regardless of how desperately you needed to do them. It thus remains important to keep track of all your tasks to see nothing crucial gets abandoned.

You also need to be good at estimating how long tasks will take. Although I happen to have a knack for this, others may find it stressful to estimate their workload in advance. And finally, you need to have a certain routine to your weeks to make the most of the app. As a father of two young kids, there is some teeth-grinding involved when I see ambitions dropping off the cliff of hopes into the sea of ‘not gonna happen’. Especially a few days of unexpected sick kids at home can make all the apps’ alarms go off. ‘Good’ thing is: all of that would have been in shambles anyway even without the app, and the app allows you to pick up the pieces much more easily.

Despite my overall positive experience with the app, I have not been able to effectively apply it to non-work related tasks, such as painting the garden shed, due to the unpredictable nature of my schedule with young children. It’s difficult to find a window of time when I can fully dedicate myself to these tasks without interruptions, making it challenging to integrate them into the app’s scheduling system.

In short, I think this app is truly what keeps my ambitious to do-list afloat, without sacrificing my family time, and as a scientist with two part-time postdoctoral positions, this app is what keeps me sane.

I’m not saying you should buy it. I’m just saying I will never ever unbuy it :)!

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