Posts

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

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

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…”

Read more

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?

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.

Read more

The number one tip against stress in your PhD

Be honest: as a PhD or PostDoc, how often do you get to work outside, somewhere green, where you can feel the sun shine, the wind blow, hear birds, smell flowers or fall leaves? When do you get to see and experience some nature? For most of you the basement lab, the library, or even your computer screen define your daily working environment.

Read more

Gun jij jezelf tijd om te mijmeren?

Een maand na ons gesprek (zie vorige blog over stress in de realiteit van je ‘droombaan’) mailt Ella dat het tot dusver heel goed is gegaan, maar dat ze zich nu toch voelt afglijden in zelfkritiek en haar oude patronen die haar zoveel stress en onrust opleverden voor het lesgeven en presenteren van haar paper op conferenties en symposia. Dat is niet zo gek, want het is niet makkelijk om de manier waarop je jarenlang gewerkt hebt zo grondig te veranderen. De gedachte aan een afgesproken coachsessie geeft gelukkig al wat rust en ruimte om de negatieve spiraal te stoppen: “als het echt zo erg is,” weet ze bij zichzelf, “dan is er bij die afspraak ruimte en aandacht voor.”

Read more

Stress in de realiteit van je ‘droombaan’

Ogenschijnlijk gaat het van een leien dakje. Na haar promotie in de geesteswetenschappen kreeg Ella een plek als postdoc aangeboden en na een paar jaar volgde een tweede postdoc aan een andere universiteit. Daar krijgt ze een flinke onderwijstaak die haar zwaar valt. Uit zenuwen voor het lesgeven is ze dagelijks tot in de kleine uurtjes aan het werk, maar deze druk en stress is niet langer vol te houden. Hoewel ze altijd overtuigd was dat een academische loopbaan helemaal bij haar paste, denkt ze na een paar maanden in deze postdoc positie eraan om ontslag te nemen. Gelukkig luistert haar hoogleraar goed en spoort haar aan om actief naar een oplossing te zoeken om met meer zelfvertrouwen en effectiever te werken. Zo komt ze bij mij terecht.

Read more