How to stay on track in the high speed rail of academia?

Side by side I walk with Maureen over a carpet of yellow and brown leaves on one of the last sunny autumn days. She is doing well in her academic career. After a postdoc at a renowned university abroad she found a promising research job closer to home. Her publications are coming round nicely and she is positioned very well for the next major grant that will help her establish her own research line.

Yet she struggles. As if she is confessing a weakness she tells me: Read more

How to get unstuck and enjoy your work despite high pressure & workload?

It has been 1,5 years since Dane successfully got his PhD. Seen on the surface, he appears to be doing great. He has several short term teaching positions and is even creating some consulting business directly from his PhD research. This is quite remarkable, because direct valorization of research is quite rare for a PhD in the Humanities. His former supervisor is confident that his career will turn out allright. The university is happy because Dane’s official status is ‘employed’.

But Dane is not happy with his situation at all. Read more

Follow your energy

Have you ever relied on to-do lists in an attempt to work effectively? Most academics have experimented with a wide variety of to-do lists, nifty apps, or old fashioned paper and pencil notes. Besides that, almost all have lists that they keep in the back of their minds.

If you are like most academics, you have probably experienced the frustration of a to-do list that is growing longer rather than shorter as time passes. And if you are like me, this tempts you to work even harder, ignoring your tense shoulders and tired brain.  Read more

Why academics need to laze around

Let’s face it. As exciting as science can be, sometimes it is just tedious, boring, taxing. When you are plodding through your data, drudging over a pile of exams, or pegging away at your PhD, it is difficult to feel that enthusiastic flow. You are working hard, draining your energy, feeling low. Naturally, you do not want to be in that space of negative energy. So you look for an escape. Read more

How to take charge of your hypercritical brain

Laura sits down at her kitchen table. A welcome quiet evening between days filled with parties with family and friends over the holidays. New Year’s Eve: a traditional time of year to look back at the past year and formulate resolutions for the new year. Laura knows the power of being mindful of your successes. She is proud that she submitted her PhD thesis manuscript last year and got approval for it.

As she starts to look to the year ahead, her positive thoughts fade quickly. Read more

How to stop working hard when I have to revise a paper urgently?

“Since my holiday I have been at work again for a couple of days. I notice that I start to work really hard when I have to do stuff that I find annoying. Chores like writing the final report for NWO, or revising a manuscript. I know I have to do it, and I have a deadline. Automatically I stop working soft, because if I work hard the chore will be done sooner. But with the way I am currently tackling these chores, afterwards I am exhausted and have a headache. How can I stop working hard in such situations?”

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What nobody tells you about being a good academic

A little apprehensively he approaches me as I am getting my coat after a workshop on Working Soft in research. Quietly he asks: “How do I improve my focus and manage my stress? Call me Chris. I work in this open office space with 12 fellow PhDs and Postdocs. When I read, write, or analyze data at my computer people often interrupt me. I like to help my colleagues out, but I also need to finish…”

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How to start working softly in science in 4 steps

With a harassed look Mireille stows some papers in her bag that she is going to grade tonight. A smile fleets across her face: “Did I tell you I am pregnant?” She has just started a temporary teaching position, where she is to do a big introductory course and a somewhat smaller advanced bachelor intensive. She is also planning to write her NWO VENI grant application in the same period, hoping she can create a job following her maternity leave. How can she keep calm and preserve the mental space she needs for developing her new proposal?

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How to know when it is time to quit your PhD

Since last summer the situation in Claudio’s lab deteriorated rapidly. His supervisor became stressed and anxious when his case for tenure was denied. The pressure on the entire team is now enormous, even to academic standards. Every Sunday Claudio feels this pit in his stomach when he thinks about the weekly team meeting on Monday. His sleep and digestive system are in total disorder. Read more

When science is just not completely rational

Doing research means to break new ground. Try new things, experiment and fail 99 times before at the 100th iteration something exciting happens. Endlessly reading complex literature on a topic, studies of a method, only to conclude that no-one actually knows the exact answer to your question. So you carry on, pioneering. “To boldly go…” and all that.

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