How to stay productive during lab shutdown

Daisy at The Wing BostonI haven’t left the house since I did my last grocery run three days ago and the cabin fever is really starting to get to me. I’ve been working from home since our lab shut down last week. 2020, the year that I had been looking forward to for so long as an optometrist and eye researcher, is now becoming the year that I stayed at home all day due to COVID-19. The trip back home to Sydney and the many conferences that I had been accepted to present at have now been cancelled, leaving me with over a thousand dollars in flight credit due to expire in 12 months. But it’s not all doom and gloom as I sit at home in an attempt to help “flatten the curve”, in fact, there’s actually a lot that can be achieved from your very laptop thanks to the internet. I would argue that forcing myself to stay away from the lab and really sit down and think about all the data I’ve generated over the past year, where my career is at and catching up on literature in my field is perhaps the best use of my time right now. It’s time to say goodbye to bench guilt and hello to reading and writing papers and grants guiltfree.

Firstly, I’d like to direct your attention to these amazing links that contain a comprehensive list of things you can do to maintain productivity

  1. https://blog.addgene.org/25-work-from-home-tips-for-scientists
  2. https://www.enzolifesciences.com/science-center/technotes/2020/march/20-tips-for-working-from-home-scientists-edition/
  3. https://postdoc.hms.harvard.edu/research-shutdown-idea-generator
  4. https://peiqinsabrina.com/2020/03/22/covid-19-and-phd-plan-b-how-to-keep-swimming-amid-pandemic-wave-hit/
  5. 36 ways of staying sane while working from home: https://jkglei.com/36-ideas/
  6. Great ideas for working from home from GoldBio

Great articles discussing how we can maintain work/life balance while working from home

  1. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/03/keeping-things-in-balance-while-under-self-quarantine/
  2. Jocelyn K. Glei from the podcast “Hurry Slowly” explores how we can find more calm and clarity while working from home: https://mailchi.mp/jkglei/5kpdgbptbz-999965
  3. For tips on mental health: https://www.karabowman.com/covid-19-article

Now here are my insights into how to maintain productivity during lab shutdown.

  1. Write your butt off! Now is the best time if there ever was one to be writing. Writing isn’t easy but it’s essential as a scientific researcher. Don’t be too hard on yourself during the process as you’ll have some better writing days than others.
  2. Set up a nice office space for yourself, preferably not on your bed.
  3. Think about all the data that you have generated so far, can you turn this into a paper? What’s missing in your story?
  4. Write a review article – it’s time to dig into the literature. Google Scholar is now my most frequently visited site.
  5. Write a grant. Speak to your PI about how to get started.
  6. Do an online course that interests you via Coursera, Stanford Online, Udemy to name a few.
  7. Make some graphical abstracts and schematics of your project using Biorender.
  8. Social media, Netflix and YouTube can be very distracting! I’ve started using RescueTime to track where all my time goes and the gamification aspect of keeping a high Productivity Pulse score is highly motivating to keep me on track.
  9. Do some yoga/stretches each day so your back doesn’t cramp up from being at the laptop all day.
  10. Take some time to get your creative juices flowing. I created a project on HitRecord, an open creative collaborative community founded by one of my fav actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. My project is called “What a Scientist looks like” that challenges the stereotypes of scientists as an introverted nerd or an elderly man in a white lab coat. There’s so much diversity to be celebrated in science and I’d love for you to post any photos, videos, voice recordings or words of text that can be used to make this mini documentary: https://hitrecord.org/projects/4269872
  11. Update your resume: some guidelines are available at the Harvard Medical School website.

Hope these tips are useful to you. It’s only been a week of working from home so far so I’ll probably have more insights as time goes on which I’ll continue to add to this post. Please stay healthy and safe. We’ll get through this!

Some additional great websites I’ve come across since writing this post:

  1. Online mediation that I’ve signed up for: Mindful Leader Free Meditation
  2. Free online workout videos: Spark People
  3. Free online workouts: Nike App
  4. Yoga online: Yoga with Adriene

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