26 March 2020 / Blogs

Doing your PhD in the Times of a World’s Pandemic: Semi-Serious Tips to Make Progress in your Research while Staying Home.

Doing a PhD entails facing several challenges, such as the precarity of academic careers and the pressure of balancing researching, writing, teaching, publishing etc… but a world’s pandemic is certainly something exceptional. Conferences are being cancelled, universities are closing, but researchers still need to make progress. But how? In this surreal atmosphere, I find myself working in my room, an environment that I’ve always found unproductive, and checking the news more often than needed. Here are some tips, which I try to follow every day, to minimise the stress of these unprecedented times.

  1.   Create a consistent routine. Set your alarm, take a shower, get dressed (no, you can’t stay in your pyjamas all day) get some work done and eat at fixed times. This might help bring some order into the chaos we’re facing.
  2.   Divide the spaces. Try, if you can, to work in a different room from that where you sleep. If you can’t, then avoid working in your bed even if it seems comfortable.
  3.   Take proper breaks. I know, it sounds impossible, but some of us tend to work too much when they have nothing else to do. And this is not OK! You can exercise, you can read that book that has collected too much dust on your shelf, you can see the recording of that brilliant performance you missed and so much more.
  4.   Use technology. Those in favour, those against…the use of technology always sparks debate, but now it’s necessary. You can access tons of eBooks from your libraries and digitalised materials on online platforms, you can discuss your work with your supervisor via skype or e-mail and, last but not least, even call you loved ones when in need.
  5.   Be kind to yourself. It’s a time of unprecedented stress. You shouldn’t panic, but it’s normal not to be 100% focussed. It is also normal to be afraid; fear is what saves our lives! Try to turn that fear into something productive.
  6.   Stay safe. Everyone is familiar with the “happy birthday technique”. Even if you stay at home for most of the time, do not forget to adopt it! Clean communal areas (you should respect both yourself and others) and your devices (I’ve read somewhere that our smartphones carry an incredible quantity of bacteria!). Avoid touching your face. For the readers of Umberto Eco’s masterpiece The Name of the Rose (for those who haven’t read it please do and SPOILER ALERT!!!), remember that monks die after licking their fingers to turn the poisoned pages of a book. Take that as a lesson, don’t lick your fingers to turn the pages of books you borrowed from the library! It’s never been a great idea.

Follow these rules, create your own, do whatever works for you. Stay safe and bring your own order into this chaos! The New Researchers’ Network virtually support you.