To-do lists and how COVID-19 will affect my research

I am now officially into the second year of my PhD. For the first year of my project I had been keeping my to-do list on my computer and deleting tasks as they were completed. This method had me feeling that I was not achieving much and forgetting what I had accomplished in the previous weeks, and therefore feeling that I was not getting enough done. Last week I got a diary for planning work. Each evening I have been making a to-do list for the following day, ticking each task off as they are completed. The main reason for getting a diary was to have the satisfaction of ticking a task as being complete rather than just deleting it. I now feel more satisfied that I am achieving my goals each week. 

On a completely different note, yesterday all UL staff and students received an email to say the campus would be closing due to the COVID-19 virus. To start with, the campus is closed from now until the 29th March (10 working days), however, it seems that the university could be closed for a number of weeks.  

How will COVID-19 affect my PhD work?  

For the next month I was not planning lab work or clinical work, so the main difference is that I will be doing my planned ‘desk work’ from home rather than on campus. I always prefer to work on campus as I enjoy the routine of getting up, going to work, doing all my work there and getting to relax when I come home in the evenings. I am usually more productive on campus, but I will have to learn to keep my usual routine while working remotely.  

One of my main research goals for this year is to conduct a clinical study on feeding tubes, as the problem needs to be fully identified before thinking of a solution. This work will be delayed if this situation continues for more than a few weeks, which is looking likely. In the meantime, I am still working on the ethics application. Ethics applications can take months to get approved so the sooner we can submit this the better, even if the actual clinical work will be delayed.  

Another difference is that I won’t see any of my work colleagues face-to-face for a few months. Any meetings will be over the phone or skype, which I don’t think will be as productive as face-to-face meetings, but we will make do for this short-term restriction.  

This semester I am taking two modules (microbiology & immunology and academic writing) and teaching tutorials for one module (industrial organisation). Lectures will be delivered online for all three and I will be doing voice recordings of my tutorials from home. The lab work for microbiology & immunology looks like it will need to be cancelled/postponed. At this stage, lecturers are trying to come up with alternatives for the end of semester exam in the possibility that we will still not be allowed on campus by May. The only advantage I am seeing to teaching from home is that I now only have to deliver my tutorials once, rather than five times a week. This will hopefully give me some more time for my own work. 

Most of this blog is about how I reckon the next month to six weeks will work out for me. I will do a follow up blog about what working from home was actually like, and whether I was able to keep to my regular routine during this time.  

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