Top Tips For Working When Sick

Last Tuesday I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready to get back into my PhD after a cosy Christmas break. Unfortunately, I was immediately smacked in the face with a horrendous cold that thrust right back under the covers for over a week. With my head pounding and waves of nausea hitting me every time I tried to do anything, how could I be productive and get better?

Well here are my top tips for getting through a niggling cold without falling behind in your PhD.

Unlike most jobs, a PhD has very little “busy work” and by that I mean basic tasks you do every day that don’t require much brain power. We’re working on a massive project over multiple years and a lot of it requires deep thought, which is not easy when you feel like death warmed up. Nonetheless, there are a few things you can do which should be manageable:

  • Work from Home

PhD’s offer incredibly flexible work conditions (barring lab/field work). You can work when you want and how you want. Take advantage of that and work under a blanket with Lemsip and Strepsils in easy reach.

  • Do some PPD

Personal and Professional Development is useful and interesting but let’s be honest it’s usually not particularly taxing. Take the opportunity to do some online courses, read over previous notes and plan your next steps.

  • Read / Revise

Is there a fundamental skill your weak in? Perhaps something you vaguely remember from your undergraduate degree that underlies your project? Use this time to go over things you’re wobbly on and try reading anything you’ve set aside for a quick skim.

  • Organise

If your folders, physical or electronic, are getting a little confusing spend some time reorganising. This is the sort of task that’s important and useful in the long-run but tends to get put on the back burner.

  • Focus on Getting Better

Keep warm and eat well. Make sure you get a little fresh air every now and then. Most of all avoid stress.

By following these tips, you can hopefully reduce stress, keep on top of your work and get better as quick as possible.


P.S. You are entitled to sick days, use them! I simply get colds a lot and they impact my work for weeks at a time so I can’t justify taking all my sick days off.

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