Redefine research goals and expectations with your supervisor/mentor
Work with your supervisor to adjust your project to a continuing pandemic timeline. This may include reviewing what was possible in the past year, exploring ‘plan B’ or ‘C’ for your research question, switching research activities during lab or clinic closures, or planning an “exit strategy” for when labs reopen.
Set realistic and achievable short-term goals. Break down large tasks into manageable steps for the coming days or weeks. Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related) and roles should be well-defined. Keep your supervisor digitally updated on progress (for example, using an electronic lab notebook). Reduce unnecessary emails and meetings by planning to meet after tasks X, Y and Z are complete. Signed written agreements can confirm shared expectations regarding tasks, milestones and time management.
Document how your time or workflow has changed, especially due to care responsibilities. Months or years from now, it will be difficult to remember the details of how pandemic related disruptions affected your productivity and timelines. Make note of exactly how your research plan or day-to-day routine has changed. This may be important for future funding and promotion applications.
- Keep track of how much time you had to take off for unavoidable reasons (childcare, care of another family member, illness, etc.)
- Document whether you worked full or part time. If you worked part time, what percent of a full-time position was it (e.g. 50%, 75%), and for how long?
- Note if you were doing a lengthy Facharzt/Fachärztin (medical specialization or comparable) qualification alongside your research and couldn’t do research full time.
Funding agencies may consider this information when calculating your “academic age”.
Remember that productivity is not everything. You may not be able to finish everything that you planned, and this is ok. Acknowledging that a change of plan is needed may help you restart. Importantly, set goals for self-care and make time to work on your mental health and wellbeing.