Don't judge productivity by old standards

A Fresh Look at Resilience

When I left my IAD office on March 17th, one of the last things I did was to take down my calendar. I wasn’t sure how long we’d be away and didn’t like the idea of seeing it still on March whenever I was able to go back. As we now enter May we’ve got more experience of working from home and online meetings than many of us ever wanted (one reason for rejoining employment after many years in business was my utter loathing of working from home!) but it’s important to keep remembering that we’re still learning, still making mistakes and still taken by surprise by the challenges.

One of the first sessions in the Pop-Up IAD was on Resilience, quickly followed by a closely related session on Productivity. This week I re-visited resilience for a seminar for a group of women in Physics and reflected on how well the advice in the original session (and the guide it was based on) had stood up to our current situation. Happily I think much of the advice IS still sound, but some aspects need to be reconfigured. The ten tips are below, along with some new links. The main message of the session is that adjusting to this new situation is something that’s happened and you should be sorted. Six weeks in, the challenges are different and it’s important to remember that you’re adjusting to these now. Several people I’ve spoken to this week have said that they’re having a tough time at the moment and are a bit surprised as they thought they should be used to it by now. So, I’m starting May’s blog with a return to the theme that we started with.

The slides from the most recent session are here (although they are really similar to the earlier one and I’m not sharing the recording beyond the network as I wanted them to be comfortable asking questions). The slide that generated the biggest response included the feature image for this blog which  I’d seen on Twitter a few days before. I’ve since discovered the image was created by Michael James Schneider @BLCKSMTHdesign using words by @jennyjaffe

Resilience Revisited

As I ran through the slides there were a few comments which are worth noting:

  • people recognised a lack of feedback as an issue at the moment. With so much additional work for lots of people to do, your manager might be struggling to remember to do this, so make a point of asking for feedback if it would help you
  • if your problem is not your own expectations, but those of others, you might find it helpful to “have a difficult conversation” about this which means I get the opportunity to recommend the excellent guide written by Judy Ringer
  • we should all invest a bit of time in working out what will help our own resilience. I don’t use journalling or writing, but others had found it useful. I knit and listen to podcasts to switch off, but you might be different. Try to notice what helps and do more of it.
  • you might not notice your own decline but colleagues might – this is harder at the moment, so try to build the habit in your networks of asking people how they are doing in a way which helps them to be honest (and ask people to do the same for you). There are resources to help with this from The Mental Health Foundation, Mind and there are some Covid-specific resources on the Samaritans website

Ten Tips

  1. Reduce isolation – use online tools, social media or the phone
  2. Recognise Imposter Syndrome – and think about how to get feedback and reassurance
  3. Rest Properly – turn off screens in the evening if you can
  4. Ask for help – and offer it
  5. Be objective – use our Wellbeing and resilience plan to help remind yourself of the triggers and good responses
  6. Focus on fewer things, do them better – be honest about the extra time things are taking and adjust your expectations (and those of others)
  7. Schedule everything you aren’t getting done – protect time in the same way you would in your workplace and schedule time for writing AND thinking
  8. Technology should help, not hinder – turn of notifications when you’re trying to focus and take work apps off personal devices if you can (or move them regularly into different folders so you don’t find yourself subconsciously opening your email through pure muscle memory)
  9. Have personalised coping strategies – get to know what works for you and do more of it
  10. Learn from Failure – and accept that you’ll keep mis-stepping for a while yet.

Running the session made me realise that one of my coping strategies is running training, so after a break of a couple of weeks when I had to catch up with team support, writing committee papers and other things, we’ll be back with the Pop-up IAD next week.

I’ll finish the blog with that visual reminder of why you might be feeling your resilience drop from time to time, again with thanks to @BLCKSMTHdesign and @jennyjaffe

Don't judge productivity by old standards



This training was developed to support our research staff including our Train@Ed cohort of fellows. Train@Ed has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska‐Curie grant agreement No. 801215

(Image created by Michael James Schneider @BLCKSMTHdesign Words by @jennyjaffe)

(Image created by Michael James Schneider @BLCKSMTHdesign Words by @jennyjaffe)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.