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How do you communicate with your supervisor?

How do you communicate with your supervisor?

Your relationship with your supervisor can be a deal-breaker in the academic world – that is, it can take your work up to the next level of success or it can prevent even your best work from getting its due credit. But how can that be? Isn’t the work you produce more important than the relationships you maintain?

The truth is, it is just as significant to ensure that you and your supervisor agree to the various aspects of research. Especially if you are looking to complete your PhD in a happy, healthy frame of mind, as opposed to embodying the stereotype of the frantic academic, it will be beneficial to you to nurture your relationship with your supervisor.

The job of your supervisor is to give you feedback on your research and writing. The problem arises when you and your supervisor, or, in some cases, you and a committee of supervisors, are not on the same page.

You may be one of those prolific writers who get a good start at the beginning. You send in pages and pages of work you have already done, and your supervisors respond to your enthusiasm with their own barrage of feedback. Both parties in this case had good intentions to begin with. However, there are high chances of miscommunication here. After your impressive first run, you find yourself faltering and halting. You don’t know what to do next, and the supervisors’ help, instead of helping you, is overwhelming you. Somewhere along the exchange of information and feedback, the main idea got lost. You need to stop sending your new work to supervisors for some time, and instead brainstorm and outline. If you send in pages of writing, you will get feedback on the writing – this includes technicalities that don’t really further your idea.

It is also possible that you may be one of those procrastinators who aren’t that productive in the beginning. You know what you have to do, and you know how to go about doing it as well, but you just can’t get yourself to do it until the pressure is turned up high. There are many people who work like this. If it’s not a problem for you then there is no requirement to change it; but, it can result in miscommunications with your supervisor. Many students feel that before contacting their supervisor, they need to have some work to show. The procrastinators will not have any “work,” and may avoid contact altogether. This is where things go bad. You should always keep in touch with your supervisor. Don’t let more than a week – or maximum, 2 weeks – go by without exchanging at least an email. Even if you don’t have any work to show, tell your supervisors about ideas you have been thinking about, directions you want to take your research – abstract brainstorming that doesn’t fit neatly into a word processor, but is still essential to your thesis. If you stay in touch with your supervisor, it will be easier to get their help when you really do need it.

Sleep Is Important to Your Career!

Sleep Is Important to Your Career!

Are you getting enough sleep? Many people fall into the trap of thinking that what they are working on now is much more important than sleep. They think that they can make up their sleep anytime, whereas the work must be finished now. This ideology is sure to give you migraines, while not really improving your work quality – perhaps even decreasing it.

The Pulitzer prize-winning author John Steinbeck has this to say about sleep: “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” This is invaluable advice for thesis writers as well. If you are stuck on something deep into the night, you are not likely going to resolve it by staying awake! Allow all the body functions and processes that go hand-in-hand with sleep to do their work, and start again in the morning with a fresh outlook.

If you are not persuaded by all the positive benefits of getting enough sleep each night, then consider the negative effects of not getting enough sleep. Research has proved that cutting back even a few hours of sleep results in irritability, stress and impaired memory. Consistently falling short of 8 hours of sleep a night over a long period of time will weaken your immune system, making you more prone to illness that will take out your productivity for an even longer time, cancelling out whatever time you gained by not sleeping in the first place. See how this works?

Especially relevant to PhD students are the decreased alertness and poorer cognitive performance that result from a sleep-deprived brain. When you are trying to succeed at a PhD level of research, you need all your wits about you, and they need to be sharp. If you find that you can’t think straight after long hours of research, you definitely need to get some sleep in.

Of course when take up such a challenging activity, you will have to make some sacrifices, and sometimes you research just demands that you pull an all-nighter. But your sleep should never be one of those sacrifices, because in the long term, it will do more harm than good. And pulling an all-nighter every now then may be justified – it may even give you an extra charge of energy and determination. Remember, though, that it is not sustainable, and will take a major toll on your body. Never stay up all night for consecutive days in a row. Get some sleep, and try again tomorrow!

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