It can be useful to apply some of the principles of project management to your research project. Taking such a systematic approach may help you to reach your milestones and complete your project within your expected time-frame. Moreover, managing your project carefully can help you to manage the unexpected.
Early on in your project you might like to set aside some time to think about the following:
What are the major milestones you need to complete in your project?
These are set by the University and with your supervisor but you might like to take it a step further and identify milestones particular to your project and then break them down into the activities needed to complete them.
How much time will you need to reach each milestone and complete each activity?
Try to make realistic estimates of how long it will take you to complete each of the activities you have identified. You may also like to think about whether there are particular resources you are relying on to complete aspects of the activities. For example, you may need to complete field work or gather data before you can complete analysis.This will help you work out the next step.
How are the different aspects of your project interrelated?
Working out the inter-dependencies helps you to adjust your time-frames to make them more realistic. It can help you identify where there might be roadblocks so you can make contingency plans. Which leads to the next point.
What are some of the time constraints?
In order to make contiguency plans you need to think ahead about what might constrain your time. If you can plan forward for these as much as possible you are more likely keep on track and be better placed to handle unexpected issues.
Once you can answer these questions you are in a position to set up a schedule for your research project. There are many different ways you can do this and various tools you can use. Basic scheduling software such as Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar are simple but effective tools and have the advantage of linking with your email. Gantt charts are another popular tool which some students find helpful to create early in their candidature and then consult at various stages to check if they are on track and adjust if necessary.