Working is one of the things more difficult to escape in this civilization. I am working on it. For the moment, at some point you will have to work. Thus, try to make your life easy, and use the resources of the university.
2.1 Drink lots of water
Classic one, but extremely important. One of the things I do when I arrive to my office is filling three bottles of water. Then I struggle opening the doors in the way back, but I like the game as well. Other people say that it is better to have just a glass to force yourself to take breaks often and move your body. However, my chronic procrastination tendencies have shown me that if I start doing something, it is better not to get distracted.
Learn about your brain. This civilization is designed by and for average boring sapiens. I am a weird one. Daniel Pink wrote When: The scientific secrets of perfect timing. (Pink 2019) You can look like a smart psychologist if you mention some of the research presented on the book on your social gatherings.
However, the real utility may lay in understanding why I am unable to do anything in the morning, why Wednesdays are for me a waste of time, and when is best for me to exercise (all the time, actually). Thus, there will be moments and days for writing, others for reading, and others for walking around the lake. Learn about which one is which for you, and you may save hours of struggling in front of your laptop.
2.2.1 Night owls
If you are as lucky as me, you function better one evenings and night. A lifestyle that is designed for people that wake up refreshed at 7am, can be a torture for those that go to sleep at 4am, fully satisfied for working uninterruptedly for 5 hours straight. Professors at psychology faculties should be aware of these realities. Sometimes, they may not. Anyways, try to negotiate and argue your work schedule. You can get a pass card to enter and leaving the building after 20pm and find people that socialize in the mornings. It can take some time, but it is doable. If not, escape the system.
2.3 Binaural Pomodoro
This one is original5. Many people are familiar with the Pomodoro technique (work 25 min, rest 5). In my case, since I have difficulties to start working, I usually cheat my brain making it belief that I will take the break when I won’t. However, I like to keep track of time and know how much time I have spent working and how productive I have been.
Since silence can be a torture and music too distracting, I have found a middle point on binaural beats. You can google it and find out the not-scientifically proven wonders of these sounds. In my case, I like “Jody Hatton’s Videos” in YouTube. I play the 25 Minute POWER NAP, and I use it as a Pomodoro timer. In a productive way, I can play it on repeat two or three times, getting a full hour and a half of productive and focused work.
There is also a track called “90 minutes of focused studying”, that you may like. The guy has videos explaining how to use the beats, and its potential benefits, depending on the wave and sounds. Explore his channel.
2.4 Deep work
This is the Promised Land that I have seen in distant mirages when I am in the desert of continuous social media distractions. You can check Cal Newport’s book(Newport 2016) for more information. In my case, I work best at nights without distraction and with my phone purposely left at home. I have tried many systems for blocking websites and apps, but I have ended up finding a way around all of them. Anyway, start with the basics, do yourself a favor, and set Airplane or Silent mode in your phone when you have to work.
2.5 Set personal deadlines before the Deadline
I am a professional procrastinator, and my brain lacks the necessary sensitivity to dopamine and norepinephrine to feel any type of fear or anxiety when deadlines are approaching. I have been able to prepare presentations of conferences in the hotel room. I have spent whole nights self-punishing my ridiculous distractions because I just had 2 hours left, and I the thing wasn’t finish. So, believe me on this. Set your own personal deadlines at least 3 or 4 days in advance of the actual deadline. Shit happens, and shit will happen. This universe has a potential of infinite last-minute unpredictable situations that can screw you up. Be serious with yourself and try to hit your own deadline. In the worst of the cases, you still will have 72 hours to go.
2.6 Get an extra monitor
If you have a small laptop and you are using only your screen, you are making your life difficult. Ask for an extra monitor to the IT responsible. You will perform many tasks way more smoothly. Browsing the internet and saving literature, working on several files simultaneously, fighting with your code and deciphering the solution offered in Stack Overflow. It will save the functional life of your eyes, and column.
2.7 Get a mouse if you need to
For an average research job, you may not need one. If you learn a few shortcuts and have a nice touchpad, it should be fine. However, if you feel that you need one, ask the IT responsible.
Pink, Daniel H. 2019. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Penguin Press.
Newport, Cal. 2016. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Hachette UK.
Avoid plagiarism and reference the source.↩