Many times, highlights do not need to be huge to be significant. This month, we are talking about highlights of the year and I would like to point at those apparently minor occurrences, which make a big difference in our lives. I’m talking about including in our new year’s resolutions some activities with the potential to become highlights of the year.
Here are five new year’s resolutions that can pretty well be our highlights of 2018:
- Reading a book which topic is not related to your research. Being a book-lover, I remember when I was in my last year of PhD studies, how much I wanted to have the time to read something else than scientific articles. For many of us, reading is a pleasurable activity whether you chose to read prose, non-fiction, drama or poetry. So, why not to include reading a book of your choice in your new year’s resolutions? Holidays are the perfect time to accommodate this pleasure without feeling guilty. Besides, if you have been stressed, I’m sure that taking the time to read a good book in a cozy armchair will count as one of the highlights of your year.
- Volunteering. Studies have shown that volunteering produces positive health outcomes such as stress reduction, sense of well-being and social relatedness (Weinstein and Ryan (2010), Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 98, No. 2, 222–244). These effects are especially present when we volunteer by our own volition. Donating a couple of hours doing something for someone that needs your help can be very rewarding. You do not need to go far to volunteer. People in academia have the possibility to volunteer to be a guest lecturer and share their knowledge with others who need it. I will never forget those occasions when I lectured to bereaved relatives. Their interest and gratitude were for sure a highlight during my years as a PhD student.
- Updating your social media channels. There are many tools, networks and channels to present your academic work and to exchange ideas with other researchers. Social media competence is becoming more and more important in the academic world and it will give you an edge that the older generations may not have. For example, updating your LinkedIn page, interacting with leaders in your field on Twitter and having an up-to-date profile on ResearchGate are likely to attract the audience you want to target.
- Learning a new skill that can give your CV an edge. Project management, team building, leadership in academia, stakeholder management, pedagogical skills and budget handling are just a few examples of skills that will enhance your CV and give you a competitive edge in academia. Many of these courses are organized in universities and are relatively easy to access. The acquisition of skills that can be used within and transferred outside academia has the potential to increase your employability after dissertation.
- Acquiring a relaxation practice. Everyone knows that life in academia can be sometimes stressful. Constant rejections of our manuscripts, difficulties to get funding and psychological distress are not uncommon. The acquisition and regular practice of techniques to cope with stress, such as mindfulness can significantly reduce levels of stress and anxiety. The daily practice of meditation has become a very important part of my life and I will, for sure, recommend it to any person, especially PhD students. Stress reduction practices won’t make problems disappear, but I personally feel that it my meditation practice gives me a solid coping base from which to deal with adversity.
Happy, productive and successful New Year!