A while back, I read this 7-day guide on getting back on track with workouts, and realized how applicable this advice is to getting back on track with research. With all the adjustments to make this approach applicable to research, here is my 7-day guide for getting your research back on track.
- Sunday – Prepare for the week: Make a planning for your week. What are the most important tasks you need to get done this week? Do you have any logistics you need to sort out in terms of bench time or lab materials? Think ahead, so that you won’t waste time during the week on figuring these things out. Then, get everything read for your first day back: your clothes, the food you are taking to campus, and you stationary and laptop.
- Monday – Hit the ground running: Which part of your research scares you most? Set aside time to think this topic through and identify various small steps you can take to tackle this big scary thing. Then, get going on one of the small steps – and you will see that the work is doable after all.
- Tuesday – Find time for yourself: We can get so absorbed in our research that we burn out and crash. Make sure to plan in downtime for yourself. For the remainder of the week, plan at least two things for yourself: an dinner out with friends, an aerobics class, a walk in the woods, an evening of crafting – whatever helps you unwind, make sure you put in in your planner and make the necessary reservations.
- Wednesday – Make progress on a tedious task: Which tedious task have you been putting off in your research? Is it sorting out your references into a reference management system? Doing some administrative things that require you go to the HR offices? A rather tedious data-processing routine? Get going and tick it off your to do list – it will free mental space as well.
- Thursday – Catch up with your fellow PhD students: Get together with your labmates for lunch or coffee, or get together to discuss recent publications. Be brave enough to tell them about the difficulties you have been (and are) facing in your research, and discuss possible ways forward. Plan a meeting with your supervisor to discuss various ways forward and show the progress you’ve been making in this week since trying to get back on track.
- Friday – Reflect and plan your next week: Revisit the planing you develop on Sunday. What did you achieve? What did you not finish? What went well? What did not go well? Reflect on these questions, and take the lessons you learned this week to plan your upcoming week
- Saturday – Disconnect and relax: Take a day off from research completely. Plan a day of activities that recharge you completely, so that you can take the positive vibe you have built up this week and move further forward next week.
Have you tried this approach to get unstuck in your research? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below.