Winding Down

Christmas is coming! We love Christmas in the Ryder house, and while I still have work to do this week, we’re definitely slowing our pace at home (except for increasing pace when it comes to wrapping presents, preparing edible gifts and so on). I don’t have to go and deliver any workshops until January, so there’s definitely time for longer lunches and little breaks for Christmas movies.

Ten Years Ago

During my PhD, especially in my first and second years, at Christmas I was just bouncing off the walls excited. A legitimate break! No guilt for two, or possibly three weeks! No work! Woooooooot!

Perhaps I had the wrong attitude?

In our department we downed tools and just turned up to chat and go for lunch, to swap presents, watch movies in now-empty lecture rooms and just have fun. It wasn’t wrong, and isn’t wrong, to think about and feel excited by a break. The thing that WAS wrong for me was to think only about the break and forget that there is a day coming, possibly a Monday, when I would have to come back to the office or the lab or the library, sit down and get back to work.

And that day SUCKED. Not because I was no longer on break, not because Christmas was another 352 days away, but because all of my projects and work were in complete disarray.

But that first day back does not have to suck. It could have been fine – and your first day back to your PhD after Christmas could be just fine – if you leave your work and projects in a good state before you go.

Listen to Uncle Nathan

I never did this for the first two years of my PhD; I was so confused as to why it was the middle of January before I got back in the groove. So, grab a mince pie and a hot chocolate for the next few days of posts, and learn from my mistakes. I have some thoughts that I want to share that I hope will be helpful to you, and which I think postgraduate researchers of all disciplines can take something from.

I think there are four big things – none of them difficult – that YOU can do to make sure that you shut down your research and work before Christmas, can feel less stressed about taking a break over the holidays, and hit the ground running in January. These four big things are:

  • Audit where you are up to
  • Put Post Its EVERYWHERE
  • Plan your first day back (and set goals for your first week)
  • Take NOTHING home over the break

These are my four big tips for winding down successfully, and tomorrow I’ll explore them in more detail. On Wednesday I want to share a site/app that I’ve started using recently and which I think can be really useful for making sure that you don’t get sidetracked during breaks but also don’t miss important things. I’m not sure what I’ll be posting on Thursday, so it’s a surprise! Join me then please 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

PS – please take a look at my Patreon campaign for the Viva Survivors Podcast!