about youSmall steps make a big difference

In the last couple of weeks, I was in contact with many PhD students during the catalyst sessions. What did strike me was that the pandemic has such an enormous effect on your PhD. Not only in regard to what is possible for your research at the moment but also in how you organize your work. At home, on-site, online, live, and all this in a different order. This creates a lot of uncertainty. And it is really hard to deal with all this uncertainty.

The content of your PhD

Some things can be solved in a practical matter: perhaps you can check if you can extend your PhD time. Maybe money is available from different funds like National Programma Onderwijs.  Unfortunately, these websites are in Dutch. Maybe your supervisor can help you out. And while you are at it, perhaps your supervisor can also have a look at the other aspects of your PhD. Maybe fewer papers suffice, or can certain demands be more flexible or even changed, is it possible for you to do more literature research and less practical work? Don’t hesitate to discuss this with your supervisor! The only battles we are sure to lose, are the ones we do not join.

I have paid attention on many occasions to the fact it is so important to stay in regular contact with your supervisor.

They can’t help you if they are not aware of your problems.


In case you are struggling with the pandemic, more so than your research, I have some other suggestions for you. What problems do you encounter? Have you lost the balance between work and your personal life? Follow this webinar with plenty of tips on how to find a better balance.

So what is bothering you? Do you find it hard to start up the day? Do you miss social contacts? Do you work far too hard or maybe not enough? Really try to clarify what is the main reason for your struggle. Once you know the problem, it is so much easier to find the solution to it.

A couple of suggestions:

  • Look for little glimmers of light.
  • Pay attention to the things that go well and focus on them.
  • It is more beneficial to work one hour with complete focus than to spend hours behind your computer without any results. It will only deplete you.
  • Please don’t try to work even harder, it really doesn’t serve you. Try to figure out what gives you energy and focus on that. You will only be able to work hard if you have enough energy.
  • Go for a walk, preferably each day for at least half an hour, it will make a world of difference!
  • Try to find a buddy, you really should stop struggling on your own.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by all these solutions and do they only add up to your to-do list, which is already overflowing. Just pick one of the suggestions and maybe next week try another one. Every small step will for sure make a big difference!

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