Archives for category: Sarah Bell
xmen team

Everybody knows that researchers are basically superheroes, right?

This blogpost isn’t about  teamworking or team roles or even managing a team. If you’re looking for these, turn back! Or, at least, have a squiz at some of the other excellent posts on the Think ahead blog.

This post is simply an invitation to you to consider who, on a basic level, is on your side? Who’s got your back? Who can you turn to for support when you’re struggling? In short: who’s on your team?

Evidence shows that having strong social support networks improves resilience to stress, yet academic research can feel isolating (and stressful!), whether you’re working on a collaborative project or on your own; identifying people that you can turn to for support – whether formally, or informally – is incredibly important. Read the rest of this entry »

 

madge

Dignified wolf…

Over the bank holiday weekend, I said goodbye to the  world’s best dog. There’s almost certainly a shed-load of peer-reviewed research to back that up, but I can’t find it just now, okay? Just, you know, take my word for it that Madge was, objectively speaking,  the world’s best dog.

She was very old and creaky, and had recently started to get significant pain in her joints. She had a morning of eating her favourite treats, playing with squeaky toys and being treated like royalty, then she went to sleep in the sunshine, surrounded by her humans. Without a doubt, it was the right decision at the right time. Knowing that didn’t make it any less heartbreaking, however.

Read the rest of this entry »

(*maybe)

Over the weekend, my social media accounts were packed  with:

spring forward               Read the rest of this entry »

I’m a bit weird about personal and professional boundaries; I like to keep things pretty separate. I mean, you don’t need to know that I get a lot of genuine joy out of Spectrum emulators or that pimple popping videos are a Thing on the internet and I’ve watched more than one. You’d think less of me, right? Oh.

But yesterday I shared a post on one of  my personal social media accounts without any comment attached, and the response from friends, family and, actually, total strangers (friends of friends of friends…) made me realise just how much we all need to hear and acknowledge this sometimes. Particularly in academia, which is only now starting to get to grips with mental health issues in its students and staff. It’s simply this:

15895342_1191577260958413_6123372207475062364_n

So, today’s blog isn’t going to be filled with my opinions; I just want to use the space to offer up a few bits of linky-goodness, to people who are struggling with their mental health, or who are trying to support someone who is. Read the rest of this entry »

Wnysoc-mediae talk a lot on this blog about the importance of being connected. Of having strong professional connections to help you as you develop your career, and of being connected to peers and colleagues within your discipline. It’s also certainly true that connecting with other people can help you to protect and improve your mental wellbeing

However, I’ve been thinking vaguely for a while about the fact that we’re all so connected, and expect everyone to be similarly connected and responsive. I’m sure we can all think of times when we’ve received an email at night, only to have a follow up email ping into our inbox by the next morning because we haven’t replied in the 12 (non-working) hours in between. Maybe we’ve sometimes been the pinger, too.

I was recently at a conference, and realised, about a third of the way into the morning session, that I’d been so busy tweeting the highlights that I hadn’t engaged as deeply as I normally would. Tweeting at conferences is kind of expected now, and as I searched the conference hashtag, it became apparent that I was far from alone in doing this. But – shocker! – when I put the phone down and moved away from the hashtag, I was better able to listen to and think about the topic being discussed. In short, I got way more out of it. Read the rest of this entry »

happy-new-year-fireworks

I must admit that I ummed and ahhed about posting this entry. For a start, I’m still in pretty deep denial about it already being September, and the fact that the new academic year is about to begin; and, for another thing, I’ve touched on my approach to resolutions and goal-setting before in this blog, and I was conscious that I could be about to repeat or, maybe, entirely contradict that post. But, actually, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my New (academic) Year’s resolutions, and, from talking to other colleagues and researchers, I’m not alone. Read the rest of this entry »

researchwell jpgThis blog is run by the Think Ahead team, at the University of Sheffield. We work with postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers, supporting them to develop careers inside or outside of academia. We’re very privileged to be able to  work with researchers as they progress through their PhD, start a new research contract or take the next step in their career. We see their successes and their achievements – and it’s brilliant!

Inevitably, though, we also see the other side: researchers who are struggling or stressed-out.  Because – spoiler alert – academia is hard! It’s enough of a challenge when everything’s plain-sailing in the rest of your life but, when a perfect storm of work and other life stresses come at once, it can feel overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »

This post is brought to you by a rainy weekend in Whitby…

rain

Rainy Whitby!

I’m not a careers adviser. I don’t even play one on TV.  At the University of Sheffield, we’re incredibly lucky to have a Careers Service that understand the particular needs of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers, and has expert careers advisers dedicated to supporting researchers as they plan their careers, either within academia or within a different sector.

Nevertheless, I talk to a lot of researchers in my job and, increasingly, researchers want to talk about and reflect upon whether academia is the right choice for them. I think this is really positive; after all, surely one of the big reasons for undertaking doctoral or postdoctoral study is to open-up opportunities, not to close them down. Read the rest of this entry »

to-dont-list-e1409263987561

As I stare lovingly at my neat, prioritised To Do list, I allow myself to bathe in the warm, smug  glow of time well-managed. Stephen Covey would be proud. Except, of course, on further inspection, my “write blog post” task has slowly crept from the ideal of quadrant two, with all its promise of thoughtful, creative work, towards the screeching deadlines of quadrant one.quadrants

The thing is, I know how to prioritise my time; I run workshops to help other people manage their workloads and prioritise their tasks. But sometimes, well, stuff happens (right?!), and you find yourself spending your time increasingly on “urgent, important” tasks and “urgent, unimportant” things, unable to give enough time and attention to the important, meaningful parts of your work. Unless, frankly, you have magic powers, this will happen to all of us from time to time, but if it goes on for too long, it starts to become the norm, with more and more of your once important but not urgent work creeping towards the red zone. Read the rest of this entry »

 

pottery-barn-inspired-christmas-mirror

Christmas – a time for reflection. Obvs.

The ability to reflect on experiences is a valuable skill, which allows you to gain insight into your personal, professional and academic development throughout the course of your career but the term “reflective practice” or “self reflection”  can sometimes seem a bit vague or off-putting. So, what is it?

Simply put, reflective practice is taking the time to think critically about your experiences, actions and feelings, and applying your understanding of them in order to inform your actions in the future.

We all think about (reflect upon) situations that have occurred or experiences we have had: what went well? What didn’t? Why? Often, we don’t do this consciously; our thoughts and feelings about something gradually emerge and we may or may not choose to act (or react) differently in future similar  situations.

Recent research from  Harvard Business School suggests that taking the time to reflect effectively on our work improves job performance in the long run. But when you’re up to your eyes in writing, teaching, marking and, ohwhat’sthatotherthing, right, research, it can be a real challenge to make the time to reflect at all, let alone effectively. But as we approach the Christmas break and the end of the year, reflecting back on your experiences in 2015 can be an important element of of getting geared up for a new year, and of finding your way out of the sluggish brain-fog of too many festive films. Read the rest of this entry »