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
My 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!