One of the best things I’ve started to do consistently this semester is to think of my research work the same way I think about my physical training. I do equipment setup, warmup, cooldown, and takedown for all my workouts and rehearsals… so why not for my scholarly life?
This isn’t an analogy. As an experiment, I’m taking it as literally as possible and doing my research as a workout, with various research tasks as a part of circuits that include planks, rows, turkish get-ups, and so forth.
Sample circuit: As many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 2 hours (I usually get through 3-4 circuits).
- Shoulder mobility circuit, 20 each of T/Y/L/Ws (similar to this set of exercises, but standing)
- Read and sticky-note a chapter in the book I’m reading. If all chapters are sticky-noted, type notes from one chapter into my personal Zotero format.
- 2 turkish get-ups on each side, using kettlebell of appropriate weight
- 5 kettlebell haloes in each direction
- Complete and send feedback/assessment on one student project (20 minute maximum; set a timer)
- 10 straight-leg situps, 10 burpees; another 10 straight-leg situps, another 10 burpees
- Write setup/context paragraph before one piece of data in a dissertation chapter
- At least 5 minutes of recovery, during which I must drink water.
This circuit changes each time I do work, depending on what I need to get done. However, there are some consistent things.
- Put on appropriate clothes (in my case, I need to be able to move my shoulders so they don’t get stiff; this might mean changing a shirt or taking off a jacket).
- Ergonomics setup: wristguards on, or monitor raised and external keyboard in position.
- Earbuds ready, music set up (FocusAtWill)
- Water bottle (+ coffee, if applicable) on the table.
- Notebook and pen open to the next blank page.
- Pomodoro timer (Toggl button) ready to go.
- “Locating” text document from the end of last work session open
Warmup (every time): Once everything in the setup checklist is complete, I do this; it should take 20 minute max.
- Shoulder muscle routine (combination of arm circles and other light mobility work)
- Use “Locating” document and notebook/text editor to design the current day’s research sprints/circuits
- …then do my physical warm-up (a ~5 minute series of stretches, squats, etc. that I do each time)
- …and then sprints/circuits can begin.
Cooldown (every time): This should take about half an hour max.
- One short (10-15 minute) pomodoro to get to a good closing place on whatever I have worked on that day.
- Stop pomodoro timer, put away.
- Stop music, put away earbuds.
- Clear browser tabs and open documents on my computer.
- Gather up water bottle, coffee/food and walk to put it away. Before returning to my computer from this trip, I think about (1) what I need to characterize about where I’ve left off to locate myself, and (2) whether tomorrow’s-Mel needs to keep anyting else in mind.
- Return to computer and type those things into “Locating” text document for tomorrow. Make this the first thing I’ll see when the laptop opens.
- Close laptop. I’m no longer allowed to open it again for the day.
- Put away ergonomics setup.
- Arm circles, trunk spirals, and cooldown stretch routine.
- Shutdown complete; pack everything inside my bag, clean up any additional items, and I’m done.