If you’ve ever worked out, you know that your body can get comfortable doing a particular exercise and then no longer feel challenged. In order for you to continue to transform your physique and train other muscles, you have to change up your workout. The same holds true for your research routine! We can get comfortable going to our office and sitting in front of our computers for eight hours and find that we become less and less productive. Below are five tips that I use when my research routine is in a stuck in rut.
1. Take your research to a coffee shop!
There’s usually free internet and who doesn’t love a cup of coffee to get the mental juices flowing. Just a change of scenery can give you new perspective on your research.
2. Visit your family!
Believe it or not, I’m often more productive when I go visit my family. Since I know I want to spend time with them, I make sure to focus on getting work done so that I can enjoy quality family time. I’ll often go to the local library for a few hours and get much more done than working at my office, and the time spent with family can help put graduate school and professional life in focus.
3. Form a virtual research group!
A friend of mine meets virtually with her research group every Thursday. They live in different locations and have very different research topics, but for the two hours they set aside, they hold each other accountable to focusing only on research productivity. They set aside 10 minutes at the beginning and end to just talk, and the rest of the time is reserved for individual work – a virtual research study session!
4. Step away from the computer!
The computer is full of distractions that are a click away. Even when you plan on reading that electronic journal article, it’s all too easy to click on Facebook and update your status with a photo of what you had for lunch. I often print out a few articles that I want to read and head to a quite place for a few hours. This gives me time to focus and write my own comments in the margins and really digest the material without distractions.
5. Begin with the end in mind!
I remember during my second year of graduate school, I got the TeX template for the Ph.D. dissertation and began to write the background section. Just seeing the dissertation begin to come together (even though much of it got deleted) helped me focus on being productive. When I would meet with my thesis advisor, I’d take her the sections that I had been working on for feedback. Although they would often come back dripping with red ink, I remember her once saying, “Wow, you’re really focused on getting this Ph.D.!” Beginning with the end goal in perspective is a catalyst that can motivate you to succeed.
Wish mathematicians around me had been able to provide such valuable advice when I was doing research for my thesis. Thanks.