We are very happy to share a blogpost this week from Emma and Liz from the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (GCYFRG). They created this post to help other geographers in their group – however, as we now enter ‘Lockdown 2’ in the UK there are plenty of good tips here to help fellow PhDs who are working away from their university desk. Thank you, Emma and Liz!
Whether you are well-seasoned in the art of working from home, or this is a new working format for you, working from home can bring with it several challenges. We have put together some of our favourite tips and tricks to overcome some of the harder things about working from home, and hopefully to make the process more fruitful and enjoyable.
1. Connect with others
Doing a PhD can be solitary at the best of times and working from home can heighten that feeling – but it doesn’t have to mean isolation. Are there any virtual writing retreats that you might be able to join? (for example, GCYFRG run one annually). Or, could you create your own network with friends to discuss what you’re working on at a set time every week? This can help you to stay motivated and can make even the most dreaded tasks seem more enjoyable!
2. Keep a log of your work
It can be particularly easy for time to slip away from you when you’re working from home, and sometimes it feels all too easy to finish the day feeling like you haven’t achieved as much as you had intended. Keeping track of the work that you have done (such as a to-do list, or even a spreadsheet) can help you to see what you’re ticking off, and it can also help to organise your work too – such as planning out what you want to achieve the next day.
3. Be specific
Rather than sitting down to do ‘some reading’ or ‘work on a chapter’, perhaps try setting really specific goals so that you know when you have done what you set out to achieve. For example, deciding that you want to read two articles, or write 500 words towards something. That way, sitting down to work can seem more manageable, and there is an ‘end point’ at which you can reward yourself!
4. Listen to online seminars or podcasts
Attending seminars or listening to podcasts can be a great way of staying up-to-date and engaged with your research area – and even if the topic is not directly related to what you are doing, sometimes it can be nice to ‘listen’ to other people’s research or discussions for a while. Even if there are no seminars ‘live’, recordings of previous events can often be found online, and there are often extensive catalogues of podcast episodes too.
5. Set up your workplace
No matter where you work – whether that be at the kitchen table, the sofa, or a desk if you have one, setting up your space before you start working can be a helpful way of getting yourself in the ‘zone’. For example, having a notepad beside you, a drink, snacks – or even getting yourself a little houseplant to create an environment that you feel happy to work in. Making yourself a playlist of songs that you can stick on if you’re struggling to concentrate can also help with this.
6. Have ‘back up’ tasks to hand
Identify tasks that you can do when working may feel like a struggle. Having ‘low effort’ tasks means that you can go a little easier on yourself, whilst still knowing that you are cracking on with something. For example, doing a search for articles that you might want to read at a later date, or editing your reference list. Working out which tasks you enjoy or look forward to and making sure you have at least one of these a day can also help with motivation.
7. Plan out nice activities
It can be easy for the working day to slip into your chill-out time, or feel that you have not ‘made the most’ of your non-working time as there isn’t always the same differentiation when you work from home. It doesn’t have to be anything big – it might be something like deciding that you are going to have a nice relaxing bath at the end of the day, cook one of your favourite meals, or watch a film that you have wanted to watch for ages. That way, you know what you have to look forward to all day, and this can help to demarcate your time.
8. Be kind to yourself
2020 has been a really hard year for many reasons; we are still in a pandemic and it’s normal to be feeling stressed, anxious and sad for any number of reasons. It’s important to look after yourself as best you can, and seek support when you need it, whether this is from supervisors, friends and family, or professional support (a good place to start can be looking at the university student support pages). Also remember that some days you might manage lots of work and feel positive about this, and other days you might not be able to do anything whether that’s because of how you feel or other commitments and that’s ok – be kind to yourself and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
We hope that you find some of these tips helpful. Please do feel free to share anything that you find helpful – we would love to hear from you!
Emma and Liz
Emma – firstname.lastname@example.org; @emmarbates
Liz – email@example.com; @e_ackerley
This post was originally produced by the Postgraduate Liaison Officers for the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Group