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You took to your dissertation work like a duck takes to water. Maybe you had just started the perfect bachelor project. Then came the corona lockdown. But all this community-spirited social distance should not stop you. Here are ten tips on how to get something done.
You work better when you eat healthily. But how do you get healthy and nutritious food on the table without having hoarded the last fresh fruit and dark bread from the supermarket? Staying at home is a welcome pretext for emptying the freezer of the vegetable mix and indefinable stews that have been lying there since you moved in. That this, at the same time, improves your budget situation is not a bad thing either.
The library is closed, so you can’t borrow the books for your assignment. Before you shout me down with ‘OK, boomer’ (who was born after the fall of the Berlin Wall), please remember that the physical library is actually quite useful when it is not pandemic season. And fortunately there are virtual alternatives. Google Scholar and the Royal Danish Library are the go-to-places for many students, but there are actually many other academic databases, and they are sometimes better suited for subject-specific searches.
Literary analyses and the exegesis of theory are pretty straightforward at the moment. But what do you do when your empirical data has to be retrieved in the ‘real world’. Do you miss your ‘lab’? We advise you to not attempt explosive at-home experiments on pets or roommates. Write instead about all the groundbreaking experiments you would have done if only you had access to the university lab. Should you have already conducted some interviews, you can just move on to the next point.
The number of applications for video conferencing is staggering. The most popular include Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Facetime and Discord. Now is the time to try out and find your favourite – or simply choose the first the best. A simple phone call isn’t a complete no-go either. However, in these times of wireless ‘AirPods’ as the latest addition to the human anatomy, it is best to remember to disconnect the call before visiting the toilet.
Saying your thoughts out loud and explaining them to outsiders really helps the writing process. These outsiders don’t always, however, have the time to listen to your intricate analyses of the concept of freedom in G.W.F. Hegel or the historical development of the Danish Code of Civil Procedure. Family and friends have the time now. So call them and give them that shot of education that they didn’t ask for. Or cry out your problem formulation from the window.
Exercise is good for your ability to study. It’s also healthy, and it might even mean you can fall asleep at night despite the cabin fever. Fortunately, exercise does not have to take place in a swimming pool or on a football field. When was the last time you did a somersault or practiced standing on your hands? Is it time to rediscover the ‘Gangnam style’? Probably not, but you get the point.
One piece of advice is on all the ‘top 10 tips’ lists, including this one: Make sure you take some time off. Give yourself a set of rules like ‘I don’t work after six o’clock.’ Another trick is the ‘Pomodoro technique‘. You work for 25 minutes and take a break for five. After three or four of these rounds, you take an extended break of 15-30 minutes.
For once there is plenty of space in the reading room, and your constantly sniffling roommate is at home. But alas! We’ve all been put on lockdown, and the reading room is just a dream. The smart thing to do is to select a room in your home as the reading room and only work in there. If you live in a one-room home, it is important that you decide what is your workstation and clean up the notes and books when the workday is over.
Another old remedy that cannot be repeated enough: Put your phone away. Into a closet in another room. Turn off your computer’s wi-fi when you can. Procrastination cannot be completely avoided, but it can be optimized. A Japanese study shows that it improves your concentration to look at pictures of cute animals, so this is both an endearing and clever form of procrastination. Official government press conferences are OK to spend your time on. But all the corona-related news is not (this article excluded, of course). Everything about corona is not ‘breaking news’.
You don’t need advice from another consultant, psychologist or journalist. What you need is advice from Ernest Hemingway: Stop the day’s writing while you still have something to write – ‘stop before the well is empty.’ Then it’s a cinch to start the next morning. And when you have written that first thing that you left over from the day before, it all just goes on from there. It worked for Ernest – maybe it will work for you.
Translated by Mike Young