How do you avoid tossing your computer out the window out of frustration?

Gepubliceerd op 2 februari 2024 om 12:00

During your PhD project, you may get to a point where everything goes awry at the same time. Your article is rejected, the inclusion of your research lags behind, you are in a writing slump, everything suddenly has top priority at the same time, and you are feeling a bit under the weather. At times like these, you may be so done with everything that you would gladly toss your computer out the window. This is a very normal feeling, but please don't do that, because it is a waste of your hard work and will only increase your misery. Read our tips first, to save you the cost of buying a new computer (and window).

Tip 1. Long live your fellow peers

You probably think that you are the only one who experiences this, but the reality is that you are unique if you have never felt this way before. Maybe your fellow PhD students happen to be in a good flow with their research right now and you feel like you are the only one who is struggling, but they might have experienced such a moment before as well. Ask them about it, and then you might as well ask them how they got out of it and what helped them in that situation.

Tip 2. Shift your attention to something else that works

You have a whole day scheduled in your calendar to write your article or do your analyses, but it simply is not working. As the minutes and hours go by, you get more and more nervous about all the work you had wanted to do that is not getting done. The best thing to do in such cases is to cut your losses and just give in for the moment. Start doing other things that you can make work. Small, manageable chores with a high success rate. Useful chores might include: cleaning up your mailbox, making the format of your dissertation, updating your schedule, updating references, and if you're almost done with your PhD already: making a list of all the people who should receive your dissertation. Once you have finished some of these easy chores you may still feel that you have had a productive day, allowing you to begin your writing or analysis task again with fresh courage.

Tip 3. Clear your head and pamper yourself

What can be very nice is simply clearing your head. Go outside (you can do that at lunchtime on a workday too), exercise, go to the sauna or take an afternoon off and do something fun with friends or family. A fresh mindset will help you the next day to get done what you did not manage to do the day before. Sometimes you get so caught up in your "PhD bubble" that nothing else seems to exist, but fortunately that is not the case. Also, keep up the courage and motivation by dwelling on your milestones. Treat yourself to something nice after publishing your article, for example. Go out to dinner, buy that bag or fun gadget you have always wanted. You have earned it!

Tip 4. Get (re)inspired

You can also get a fresh mindset by doing something completely different at work for a moment. For example, attending an interesting lecture or an in-depth course, or a conversation with someone from your work field can suddenly give you wings again. You can also check if there is an interesting conference coming up you might be able to attend. Conferences are often a great source of inspiration with new insights, new (international) contacts and much more. It is often a moment when you remember exactly what you are doing it all for, so you can get back to work with renewed energy!

Anecdotal evidence

Stynke usually went for the sporting option with a colleague to clear her head. During her PhD, there was a 'lunchwork-out' at the UMCG that you could join during your lunchbreak everyday. Sporting for half an hour, taking a shower, and moving on. That was a nice break from the long days of writing during the final stages of her PhD. Jojanneke usually went for the peer support option. During the days filled with complex analyses she would grab a good cup of coffee with her roommate after lunch and they would walk or just chat for a bit, so they could both blow off some steam. After that, she would be good to go!

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