With the atmosphere in most workplaces already in holiday mode, it can be hard to keep track of our research, or even pick up that next article to read.
While taking a break and recharging over the holidays is essential for good research practice and life balance, there are some things you can do right now – pre-holidays – to get a head-start on your research in the new year.
If you’re able to push aside the tinsel and dodge the flashing lights for this final burst of productivity, here are each of the Research Whisperers’ Top 3 End-of-Year research tips.
- Plan your research goals for the coming year. I hate it when people tell me to do this kind of thing but, over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how this kind of list functions to make me more productive. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I achieve everything on the list, but it keeps me aware of progress in the right direction (e.g. I may not get that journal paper out there, but I manage a book chapter instead). It also helps with getting a handle on how much you’ll need to fit into your schedule next year, and you might even have to start saying “No”!
- Check important grant dates for 2013. There’s no excuse for grant rounds and submission dates to sneak up on you – if it’s a scheme that’s been around, chances are that the following year’s dates will be very similar to this year’s. Occasionally, the scheme might be pulled for a year or so (“under review”), but this is usually flagged by the funding body. Knowing when things will probably be due means you can be prepared with a project outline, track-record documents, and budget ready to roll whenever the round is opened. Grant rounds are often opened and closed within short spaces of time (e.g. can be one month).
- Get it off your desk. Push as much project activity and planning off your desk as possible.This could be as simple as booking all the travel for that fieldwork that you’re meant to do ‘early next year’. You know that if you leave all the planning till next year, it’ll probably be about mid to late next year before it actually happens. Similarly, with meetings that you’d like to have, shoot off emails or make the calls to line them up. Unless they’re on holidays, most people’s calendars are quite free in the early months of a new year. Psychologically, getting a few runs on the research task board before the university terms even start (in late February / early March in Australia) sets up a certain smug momentum that will hopefully carry through the year.
- Clear your mind. I am a big fan of serendipity, of allowing random neurons to combine in new and interesting ways. Make sure that you have time over the break to let your mind float, break out of your usual thought patterns, and allow new ideas to emerge.
- Gather your holiday reading. Unless you have an application due in January (and some people do), this is a good time to take stock and catch up. I’m not talking about grinding through the next literature review. I mean explore a few interesting articles from outside your field. Read some books. We run so fast most of the time that we feel like we are skating over the top. This is a chance to plunge into the depths.
- Travel safe. A car crash can severely limit your chances of saving the world. Drink in moderation. Belt up. Drive safely. For those in Australia heading to the beaches, slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. Skin cancer isn’t as abrupt a change in pace as a car crash, but it will cramp your style just the same.
On that (somewhat gloomy) note: Best wishes for a happy and safe holiday!
This will be our last post for Research Whisperer in 2012, as the blog will be taking a holiday for three weeks.
Our first post for 2013 will be on Tuesday 15 January.
We’re very excited to have so many great guest-posts for next year in the pipeline already:
- The Thesis Whisperer will be writing for us on ECRs and research degree supervision;
- Ben Kraal will be talking about his successful experience with a speedy grant scheme, as well as writing another post on the suggestion that research grants should be for longer terms (therefore, fewer awarded); and
- Anuja Cabraal writes on how to make casual employment work for you.
As well, we are planning posts that address a great bunch of subjects, many of them suggested by you! These topics include: how introverts collaborate (thanks, @AnujaCabraal!), superpowers required by RO Peeps, research project management (thanks, @geoffsal), setting up a research centre, and much more!
If you have anything you’d like to see on RW next year, leave us a comment here, or tweet us (@researchwhisper). As you can see, we take direction well.
Thanks to all of our guest posters for 2012 and you, our digital street crew. You have commented, reposted, liked, +1’ed, tweeted and retweeted. Without you, we would be nothing.
See you in 2013!