Today, I have the pleasure of inviting Astrid Coxon for the "How I Work" series. Astrid is a first year PhD student at the University of East Anglia, and a Health Psychology trainee. Her current research interests include self-efficacy, stress, and team dynamics in healthcare professionals. In her spare time, she enjoys singing and playing the double bass, roller skating, and exploring the Suffolk countryside with her husband and their two whippets, Flotsam & Jetsam.
Current Job: First year PhD student (Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences)
Current Location: Living in Suffolk, working at the University of East Anglia (Norwich)
Current mobile device: HTC One X+
Current computer: Surface 2 Pro
Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
My PhD research sits within a larger, NIHR funded research programme called PERFECTED (Peri-opERative hip FracturE Care for paTiEnts with Dementia). PERFECTED is a 5-year, nationwide project to design and pilot an evidence-based Enhanced Recovery Pathway (ERP) for hip fracture patients with dementia. With PERFECTED now executing its Work Package 2, the feasibility study for the ERP, the aims of my PhD research are to explore the context of the ERP's implementation, and identify barriers and aids to its successful integration to existing practice.
What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
I use a lot of cloud/web-based/remote technology so I can access my work anywhere - my laptop comes with me all over the place! As I live quite a distance from campus, and the hospitals involved in my research being spread around the UK, remote access to my files is a godsend.
I don't have much specialist software - I use common Office software (excel, word, powerpoint, Outlook via Office 365), the citation manager Mendeley, OneDrive, OneNote. As my research is qualitative, I will likely use a data management tool such as NViVo at some point, but I'm not decided on that yet - I do love the traditional highlighters approach.
What does your workspace setup look like?
It varies depending on where I am, what I'm doing, and my mood! On campus, I have a shared office space with 10-20 other students. It's a hot-desking office, but at the moment there are plenty of computers spare so we sort of have our "regular" desks. I also work from home a fair amount - I do have a spare room which is my office, but more often than not, I wind up setting up camp on the sofa, surrounded by books, papers, and cups of tea.
What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Write something every day. It doesn't have to be perfect, or even good, but get things down on paper (or in a word document) - it's not only a good habit to keep your writing muscles limber, but it's also really useful for sorting out muddled ideas, and to see your ideas develop over time.
How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
Spreadsheets! Spreadsheets for everything. And OneNote can come in really handy for filing different things in different folders in an accessible way. I also have a whiteboard in my home office which I regularly update with rolling deadlines.
Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
Not really! Although I do have an adapter to wirelessly link up my laptop to my TV. It can be fun to read journal articles on a 42" screen...
What do you listen to when you work?
I try not to listen to anything as I find it very distracting! But if I'm doing mindless busy-work (e.g. data entry) I'll often stick on a Shostakovich symphony, or something equally loud and Russian.
What are you currently reading?
I take it you mean other than journal articles?? Hah! I don't often find time for reading-for-leisure, as my free time is taken up with classical music and roller skating! I've got Iain Banks' "The Bridge" half read on the side - it's been there for months!! Most recent non-work-related book I finished was Maria Konnikova's "Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes" which was quite fun.
Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?
I'm that weird breed of introvert that's quite loud. I think people often assume introverts are shy and retiring. It's not that - we just find socialising very draining! I love people, but socialising takes a lot out of me. I find it very difficult to work in a social environment, hence why working from home often benefits me.
What's your sleep routine like?
It's ok! It can be a bit erratic on nights when I've been skating because I tend to get home quite late and then have to shower and unwind. But my sleeping patterns are nothing out of the ordinary.
What's your work routine like?
Erratic. I've been to a lot of conferences and training events recently and it can be hard to get into a good routine. I try to make a list (even if just a mental list) at the start of each day to make sure all the important stuff gets done.
I also archive emails once I've responded or acted on them, so that things don't get missed. But I definitely need to get better at "chipping away" at big tasks, rather than letting them get bumped down my list of priorities.
What's the best advice you ever received?
It's never too early to start something.