Tag Archives: Research

The Productivity Code Video Series


Very often people think that being a researcher is all about excitement, discoveries, and success. And while some of this may eventually be achieved, the day-to-day reality of it is rather different.

We often struggle to keep up with running a lab, taking new data, analyzing them, writing papers, applying for grants. And all of this while also trying to have a full and fulfilled life!

Some of us may also constantly battle with negative thoughts:

“what if this is not good enough?”

“what if I don’t manage to make good progress?”

“why did I not do this earlier when I had more time?”

No wonder, we often feel exhausted, overwhelmed and just simply run down.

I have been there myself. And I have personally discovered what a huge difference it can make to just follow the advice and support of those who have been there and have found a way to succeed.

In fact, soon after becoming a mom, some years ago, I realized I needed to set new priorities both at work and in my private life. That’s when I started working with Olga Degtyareva, a friend and former colleague of mine.

Olga has become an expert on productivity and she has already helped many students and researchers all over the world to make huge progress in their careers without feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, or stressed out.

The good news is that Olga has now put together a great free training series to show you exactly how to overcome overwhelm, become more productive and stay productive for good!! Over 150 people from around the world have already joined in this training. You can still register to access the full training series at the link below:

FULL SERIES: The Productivity Code Video Series

(make sure you also download the handouts by clicking on the link below each video)

But that’s not all!

Olga emailed me the other day to let me know that she is going to release one more video today!

BONUS video #4… it’s all about you moving forward on your path. And she’ll be telling you about two biggest problems that most researchers come across.

Also, towards the end of the video, she’ll give you the details about the Productivity Code Quick Start Online Course and Coaching Program.

So, if you are struggling with making progress with your work, don’t miss out!

Registrations are opening up TODAY (11th of September) at 12:00pm London time.


PS Oh, and remember that the free training will remain available only until September 18th!


Are You Struggling With Your Writing?

Computer-Frustration-Cartoon-2‘How do I write an introduction?’

‘What do I put in my conclusions?

‘How do I manage to keep on track when I feel I have completely lost my motivation?’

‘My submission deadline is approaching fast but I still haven’t completed my thesis and I’m now panicking. What can I do?’

‘How do I decide what to reference in my text?’

These are just some of the questions that I get asked all the time.

Do you relate with any of these? If so, don’t miss my FREE Webinar:

‘How to Write Your PhD Thesis, Proposal, or Research Paper in 5 Easy Steps That Will Save You Time, Stress, and Sleepless Nights’

In this webinar, I’ll be sharing:

  • The single most important thing to get right in your thesis, proposal or research paper
  • My top 3 tips for productive and effective writing
  • The worst mistake you can make and how to avoid it
  • My proven 5-step approach to writing that will help you enjoy it and become more confident

Interested? Then, make sure you register now as spaces are limited and they are filling up quickly.

After the webinar, I’m also going to open up registrations to my online course ‘Hands on Writing: How to Master Academic Writing (in the Sciences)’ where I teach the very same strategy that I now use for my own writing and when supervising my PhD students.

And… I’ll be telling you about some juicy bonuses on how to avoid procrastination, stay on track, enjoy a great work-life balance so you can feel confident and in charge again.

I’ll tell you more at the webinar, so just make sure you do not miss it! 🙂

Here is the link again:

Insiders Views on Doing a PhD (Video)

A new academic year starts today at the University of Edinburgh.

This also coincides with the arrival of all our new PhD students. For some, this is the time to start thinking about choosing a project, or a supervisor, and finding out what to do to begin in the best possible way.

For others, this is the time to start thinking about applying for a PhD, or even finding out whether a PhD is a good idea for them. Last year, I posted some advice in this blog and you may find it useful to read Ten Good Reasons for Doing PhD (part I) and (part II) or to read my guest post at Nature’s SoapBox Science Blog.

This year, we decided to ask some insiders about what a PhD means to them.

In the video below, three of our PhD students (Daniel Doherty, Salome Matos, and Tim Bush) speak about their experience as a PhD student in the School of Physics and Astronomy.

These are the questions we have asked them:

  • What made you want to study for a PhD?
  • What are your career aspirations and how do you think a PhD will help?
  • Is your PhD related to previous studies?
  • Do you have any advice on how to approach a potential supervisor?
  • So far, what have been the hardest and most rewarding moments of your PhD?
  • So far, has the PhD been what you expected?
  • Do you have any advice for prospective PhD applicants?

Click on the image below to start watching the video. I hope you will find it useful.

Video credits: Noe Ardanaz-Ugalde 

Do you have any comment or question? Just let us know and share your experience.

My three little secrets

It’s been a while since I last published a post on this blog. So, I guess it is appropriate to give you all a very warm “welcome back”.

It has been a very busy few months since the beginning of the year. I have given my undergraduate lecture course, run tutorials, demonstrated in a first-year lab, and refereed a major grant application. I have also written three papers, a feature article for a nuclear physics magazine, and a conference proceedings. All of this while also looking after my child, now almost 18 months old. And you know what? It feels so good! 🙂 So, I thought I could share with you three little secrets that have helped me accomplish all of this.

Interestingly, it has been precisely the arrival of my son that has prompted me to look at my various commitments and to realise that I needed to prioritise. However, you do not need to have a child before becoming more productive! So, here is what you can do to improve your output while also striking a good work-life balance.

First, and perhaps most importantly, you have to get clear about your own priorities. This is something I have learnt from the coaching work of Olga Degtyareva and Christine Kane. It seems an obvious thing, but we rarely take time to identify what is truly important to us. So, we develop a tendency to live re-actively, rather than act on the basis of precise choices and intentions. Getting clear about our intentions and what we want to achieve helps us taking the immediate next steps in the right directions.

Second, you may need to learn to say NO. I must confess that I have often struggled with this. In part it is because I like to help others whenever I can. But at times, we find it difficult to say no because we do not want to disappoint people or because we seek their approval or simply because we don’t want to be impolite. So, we end up spending time and effort on activities that are not in alignment with what we truly want to achieve. Saying NO to things we are ultimately not interested in frees up precious time for what really matters to us (and yes, this may even be spending more time with family or friends).

Finally, you may want to get support. This can mean finding a mentor, a coach or simply an accountability partner. In fact, the very act of telling someone else what you want to achieve, how you plan to get there and which steps you intend to take can be enough to keep you on track. It also serves to encourage us when we loose motivation or when we feel overwhelmed.

Now, next time you feel stuck or struggle to achieve more of what you want, why don’t you try to follow any one of these little tips and see if your days take up a different shape. I bet they will.

Top Ten Tips to a Great PhD Start (part 2)

“Chi ben comincia è a metà dell’opera!” This is an old Italian saying that means “The one who starts well is already half way through”. This holds for your PhD too. There is a lot to take on board when you start a PhD and sometimes things can get overwhelming. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to start well and give the best impression you can. Last week, I shared the first five of my top ten tips to a great PhD start. Here, are my other five.

6) Be interested. Doing a PhD is quite a bit more than just working at your research project. It also means getting involved in your community, taking part in the departmental life, finding out what your peers are doing. Apart from the social aspect of it, being interested and being involved will give you plenty of opportunities to broaden your horizons.

7) Take advice. Let’s say you are smart. Ok, let’s say you are very smart. Maybe even smarter than your supervisor. That’s a great thing. However, as long as your doctorate is concerned, this is probably new territory for you (unless, of course, you have already done a PhD before). Your supervisor, on the other hand, will have been there before and most likely will have already supervised other PhD students. As such, they have a better view and understanding of what it means to do a PhD. So, just take advantage from their experience and be open to take advice.

8) Communicate well. Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance polymath and my greatest genius of all times, developed quite a remarkable way of writing, from right to left, that could only be read holding his scripts in front of a mirror. Some people say it was because he was left-handed, but others believe that he was afraid to have his ideas stolen or copied by others. In fact, an incredible number of inventions and discoveries remained unexploited during his lifetime and had to be “re-invented” centuries after. The morale? No matter how good your research is, the point is that unless you are willing to communicate it and communicate it in a way that others can understand it, there is little point in doing any research at all. The communication skills that you will have to master during your PhD (and ideally in any career you choose after that) will involve mostly written, oral and poster presentations (more about these in future posts). However, when it comes to communication, also the way you interact with your supervisor, your colleagues and your peers matters. In fact, even the way you communicate by email says a lot about the type of person you are. While there is no need to be unduly formal, it is always worth keeping in mind some etiquette rules. When writing to people on more senior positions, always make sure you use a proper salutation (no “heya” or the like) and a proper ending. Be polite and to the point. Avoid sms-like text. Don’t be sloppy and check for possible grammar mistakes!

9) Follow your words with actions. I just cannot count the number of times I have been promised something (a thesis chapter, a report draft, a meeting at a given time) just to be met with a delay, a problem or simply nothing. It is frustrating. Sure, there will be times when something genuinely happens that prevents you from sticking to your words. It happens to all of us. But if not following through your words happens just all too often, then your credibility is lost. If you suspect that you may not be able to meet a deadline or an arrangement (however informally agreed that was), say so at once. Always assume that whatever you are asked to do is going to take much longer than you anticipate and plan accordingly. This will minimise the risk of having to come up with some reason as to why you did not stick to your words. Ultimately, this is part of becoming professional, which takes us to our last point.

10) Become professional. The holder of a PhD is a fully professional research scientist; can produce research of interest to other professional research scientists; is knowledgeable enough to evaluate the work of others; and can communicate their results to an audience of professional researchers. Of course, it will take time to acquire all these skills, but these are the goals you should be aiming for from the very beginning of your PhD. Knowing in advance where it is that you are heading can help you better define the path and focus on the key tasks that will allow you to gain such skills. The way you will operate during the years of your doctorate is likely to set the stage for whatever comes next, whether it be a post in academia or a job in the “real world”. The people with whom you interact are the same who will provide references about your achievements, but also – and equally importantly – about your personality and attitude. Make sure you get the best possible reference by being the best possible professional you can be.

PS This is the last post of this series for this year. We’ll resume in January. Until then,  very best wishes to all for a happy festive season!