10 tips for working from home during your research degree

With the UK turning to remote working due to the coronavirus outbreak, you may find yourself swapping the library for your living room. Never fear, though – we’ve amassed ten handy hacks for ensuring you stay focused, energised and – above all – healthy while working from home.

PhD home working

1). Try and maintain a routine

Your research journey can go on many twists and turns, so staying to a routine isn’t usually par for the course. However, if you’re working in isolation, it can be easy to let things slide. Set yourself targets throughout the day in terms of number of words you wish to write, data you want to analyse and chapters you need to read.

2). Create a contingency plan

If progress on a project is paused due to you being unable to collect data, try to think of the other things you can do. Write an introduction to a paper or work on your literature review.

3). Make a community

Self-isolation may sound scary, but it only means physical isolation. You should remain socially active. Back on campus, you may have forged some close relationships with your fellow research students. Don’t let those relationships falter during these times – create a WhatsApp group or chat on Facebook. Stay connected and keep supporting each other virtually.

4). Stay in contact with your supervisors and other important people

Just because you can’t meet with your supervisors in person, it doesn’t mean you should cease all contact. Continue to schedule meetings with them via Skype or Microsoft Teams. Furthermore, you may have been planning to attend a conference or seminar that has now been postponed. Why not drop a line to an attendee you were looking to share ideas with, or the conference’s keynote speaker for some welcomed wisdom?

5). Dress for work

If you’re struggling to keep to a routine, what you wear may help. Working remotely means the temptation to write chapters in your pyjamas is far too great. Ask yourself what your goal is for the day and dress accordingly. You may be looking to analyse data or work on your literature review, so wear clothes to match.

6). Utilise social media…

Not only is it a good source of information, it’s a useful way to stay connected. Go through the research degree journey with likeminded individuals by joining a Facebook group and network with researchers online.

7). ...But don’t be afraid to turn it off

Social media can be a great boon and a real distraction. Make sure it doesn’t fall into the latter category. If you find the likes of Twitter and Instagram are becoming a hindrance, consider installing a web extension that blocks you from accessing certain sites for a set amount of time. StayFocusd and Cold Turkey are two prime, free examples.

8). Take regular breaks

Whether you’re on lockdown or working hard in the library, it’s easy to forget that as a research degree student you’re entitled to a break. Stay focused and energised by stepping away from your work. Go for a walk to clear your head (just remember about social distancing!), enjoy a home workout or even start a blog!

9). Learn a new skill

Being in isolation isn’t on anyone’s wish list, but try to think positively. One upside is it provides you with the opportunity to take on a new talent. Keep your mind active away from your studies and begin learning an instrument, start cooking or build up your professional skills.

10). Stay healthy

Perhaps the most important point of all. With the coronavirus being incredibly contagious, remain diligent and keep washing your hands. Furthermore, working in isolation can predictably cause feelings of loneliness and mental fatigue. Remember to reach out to friends, family and colleagues if you are feeling depressed.

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