Next meeting: Thursday 11 June at 10:00 AM.
NB The post below was first published 5th May 2020.
It’s week 6 of lockdown – it’s been six weeks since we left our university buildings, heads filled with disbelief and arms piled high with papers. For many PhD students, carefully planned research timelines have been scrapped. Junior researchers are in limbo, wondering how far their plans will need to adapt to this ‘new normal’, wishing things could go back to the way they were before. Although disruption has been experienced at all levels of academia, PhD students are so invested in just their one project – it’s understandable to feel that lockdown has really rocked the boat.
Peers for PhDs project leaders, we wanted to collect some tips for
managing this time. These build on time and project management tools
to help you make some progress if you are stuck. But it’s important
that you look after yourself before
your project – if you are struggling, speak to someone, whether your
supervisor, IPAP reviewers, fellow PhD students or friends and
family. We’ve included some advice on work-life balance and
recognising stress, and hope you find the suggestions useful.
for PhDs is
a student-led group to support the wellbeing of PhD students. We
usually have regular group meetings, discussing a different theme
each month as chosen by the group members. Recently we’ve moved
onto zoom, and we’re meeting more often to allow more opportunities
for PhD students to meet each other during this strange time. All
postgraduate research students are welcome, so if you would like to
join Peers for PhDs please email one of the project leaders (details
below) to be added to the mailing list.
top 10 tips…
a comfortable working environment
First things first, are you working in a suitable environment? Is there anything that you can do to make it better? A tidy desk, an appropriate office chair, a scented candle – little touches can make all the difference to the feel of your work. If you can separate your workspace from the rest of your home, that’s even better.
your working hours
plan can include non-negotiable core focus hours and some fun or
treats. I find I’m more likely to stick to my plans if there are
perks as well as work in the schedule. Define your ‘off-time’ –
you’re not expected to be on call continuously – and consider
what notifications you might want to turn off over the weekend.
do lists are your friends, but keep them manageable – i.e. what do
you have to do this month? If you’re not sure, try using the
Eisenhower matrix to identify your urgent, important tasks and break
down large work into smaller chunks.
can be helpful to record what you are doing each week, and you can
archive these to look back and see how much you have done over the
passing weeks. You might want to record one good thing each day, or
note how you’re feeling, as a way of checking in with yourself too.
yourself off the hook
productivity pressure is real! Avoid comparing yourself to imaginary
others. Everyone has a different way of responding to these
circumstances, they really are unprecedented, so it’s okay if all
you’re doing right now is surviving. Don’t put more pressure on
yourself than there already is.
too easy, throughout the PhD, to set ourselves unattainable
productivity goals and then beat ourselves up when we don’t manage
it. Scale back your expectations – try to take baby steps in the
right direction rather than a leap towards the finishing line!
a limited time for a task you’ve been struggling to do and set a
timer – eg. 25 minutes. It’s an old trick but it’s a
surprisingly effective way to make progress.
in contact with people, whether this is your supervisor, peers,
friends, family, neighbours. Having a chat to break up the day is
great for productivity and keeping connecting is really important for
your mental health. Peers for PhDs has just started coffee mornings,
which is an opportunity to meet other PhD students once a week.
are so many productivity apps and hacks around – searching through
them becomes procrastination in itself! I would recommend Mindful
Browsing, which gives you gentle nudges away from distracting
websites. There might be a new technical skill you’d like to learn
or understand, and haven’t had time before.
important – not just for our eyesight – that we take some time
away from the screens too. Can you mark some separation between work,
play and sleep? Taking a whole day away from technology is an
interesting challenge at the moment – but you might be surprised at
the difference it makes.
Peers for PhDs is running regular coffee mornings each week. It’s a great start to the day and a relaxed way to meet people who understand the stresses of the PhD. You can join the mailing list or ask questions by emailing one of the project leaders:
Natasha Bradley firstname.lastname@example.org
Ella Fox-Widdows email@example.com
Mohamed Hammad firstname.lastname@example.org
Past dates of next Peers for PhDs meeting:
- Tuesday 5th May: 9:00 am
- Thursday, 14 May: 10:00 am
- Tuesday, 19 May: 9:00 am
- Thursday, 28 May: 10:00 am
- Tuesday, 2 June: 9:00 am
LDC Development team have recently announced their programme
continuing the Writing retreats and introducing interactive
Ella and Mohamed