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Remaining Grounded & Connected to Academic Work in the Time of COVID-19

When we imagined the world in 2020, we didn’t conceive of this very strange and frightening reality of COVID-19. But here we are, living in some kind of weird existence, where our world has been turned upside down by a worldwide pandemic.

Just a little while ago, we were unfamiliar with terms like social distancing, shelter in place, safer at home, or flattening the curve. Few of us have ever experienced empty supermarket shelves, toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages, or scrambling to recalibrate our lives to work online. Many of us are having to make countless small and large adjustments. You may be teaching online, changing your routines and suddenly co-working with others, becoming home-school teachers overnight while schools are shut down, or caring for others who cannot leave their homes at all.

Even in the face of our new reality, we know it is important to maintain some sense of routine and normality. We also know that many of you still want to make progress on the path to earning a graduate degree. We are all needing a way to manage the stress and uncertainty of our new reality, yet still be able to focus, concentrate, and complete academic tasks. To that end, we want to offer you a few ideas of how you can support yourself to stay grounded, productive, and connected to your academic work during this unprecedented time.

PRIORITIZE

To start, it can make a big difference to clarify your priorities. In terms of your academic work, we encourage you to consider what deadlines you have or goals are you seeking to meet. What work would it feel really good to (realistically and humanely) accomplish today, this week, this month? Take into account what can reasonably be accomplished given what is happening in your household, changes to your work or childcare responsibilities, and the stress of living through this pandemic.  We recommend writing down the academic and life priorities you have over the next few weeks to set the stage for making progress and being able to care for yourself and loved ones. Each evening, write out your priorities for the next day and give yourself specific writing or other research tasks that can be completed in shorter intervals of time. For example, instead of a directive to “write chapter 2,” it may be more helpful to identify small subsections in chapter 2 to write in a given day.

STRUCTURE YOUR DAY

A great way to feel connected to your work is to set up a structure for your day that includes some academic zones, periods of time when you will commit to only doing academic tasks (and truly take a break from your phone, email, social media, and the news). This is especially important if you are not used to working from home. It can be very helpful to map out a plan for the day that includes when you are writing or doing other academic tasks, when you are exercising, and when you are managing other work and personal responsibilities with space to unwind and even do nothing. Marceline closes out each work day by mapping out the next day on a piece of paper and uses that written plan as a roadmap for how to move through her day including her own writing projects, phone calls and meetings, administrative tasks,etc. She often plans 1-2 hour blocks of phone and email free time for writing projects.

AN important MESSAGE ABOUT DEADLINES

Some of you may work in healthcare or other fields that are seriously impacted by COVID-19 or now have children at home who require your attention and care. If your professional or parenting responsibilities are making it very difficult to meet external deadlines, we encourage you to be in communication sooner rather than later. Most likely, faculty and administration will be flexible and grant extensions to students given this pandemic. Communicate this message in a positive way that demonstrates your commitment to meet existing deadlines with an alert that you may need to ask for an extension. In our experience, it is better to communicate early and provide a proactive warning that you may not be able to meet deadlines .

We are here rooting for you to put one foot in front of the other, taking it one day at a time, maybe one hour at a time. From all of us at Dissertation Training Hub , we hope you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe.

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