Small things to help you through PhD

Sometimes it is not the big things that get you through something, but the tiny ones. This is why I have decided to share three “small things” (tips) that help me through my PhD. I hope you will find some of them helpful, or be inspired to adjust them to your own needs.

1. Creative passwords

password-2781614_960_720My institution forces us to change passwords every three months. I used to think it is extremely frustrating. Until I decided to turn it on its head! Now every three months, I code a new message into my password depending on what I need to hear the most. If I am doubting myselft it might be “you are good enough“. Other times, I might remind myself to stay humble and be kind. According to psychologists such positive reinforcement, especially on regular basis, should work. And I can only agree. My little secret messages often make me grin as I log into my computer or email. And I even look forward to the compulsory change of passwords!

2. Time tracking

In an earlier post Nina wrote about activity tracking for effective time management  and higher productivity. I also track my activities and can highly recommend it. My solution is very low tech. I just print out a month overview on one sheet of paper. I write in when I got in the office, when I left and key words for what I worked on. For the four years of my PhD, the tracking calendar always lied on my table. However, its purpose has changed over time. Early on, I tracked productive, OK and unproductive days. That helped me to learn about my work patterns and to adjust the content of work. Later, it became a tool to calm my conscience and rest. There is always more work to do, and we cannot always be optimally productive. So now, if I am tired and I have hit my “quota”, I allow myself to take a break.

3. Decorate your office

My desk in our open office is very distinct. I have postcards, little notes and messages pinned everywhere. There is a photo calendar that my mum produces every year, cross-stiched decoration a friend made. And just above my screen, I have an orange heart with a note “you are worthy because you are YOU”! It is a present from yet another friend.  Most days, I do not look at the decorations. Usually, I stare down on the mess of research articles on my dest, or onto my computer with statistical programs crashing, and millions of observations to analyze. Yet, when I do look up, these small things remind me that there is life outside of this office, and people who love me. A reminder most lonely PhDs could do with.

What are your small things to get you through? Share your tips with us!


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