Staying motivated during a pandemic as a PhD student

Written by: Annabelle Nwaokorie
Written on: Wednesday, 17 February, 2021

When I started my PhD, I simultaneously began to document my journey on Instagram. I share the day to day realities of doing a PhD, especially highlighting the positives. By doing so, I have connected with and built a community. This feels like a support group of over 10,000 people, and motivated many others across the world to do the same. Over the last few months I have found different ways to stay motivated during the pandemic, which have helped me to stay on track.

4 ways I have stayed motivated working from home during the pandemic: 

1. Accountability – Surround yourself with positive people

On Instagram I started a “September Challenge” using the hashtag #thephdstudentchallenge which inspired many other academics and PhD students across the world to get productive for the new academic semester. The challenge consisted of a prompt every day of the month which aimed participants to focus on achieving their goals. This was done by taking pictures and/or videos each day for the associated words in the calendar. The challenge started at 0 posts and finished with 1,988 posts. The challenge inspired many, and started a community where students can connect and be together during such challenging times. Due to the success of the first challenge, I repeated it in December 2020 and January 2021, using the hashtag #thephdstudentnewyearchallenge resulting in an additional 2,821 posts. After the challenge, participants felt connected  and inspired. Some stated that seeing the daily prompts of others kept them accountable for their actions. They felt the challenge was a major source of motivation in their everyday PhD life. 

I believe by surrounding yourself with positive people and seeing their achievements and day-to-day realities can not only motivate you to do the same, but also inspire you.

2. Having a Routine/ Schedule – Keep up the momentum

Having a routine whilst working from home has been a major factor that has helped me stay motivated. Setting a schedule seems simple and extremely obvious but during the last few months extremely hard for many of us to do. Having a routine gives your goals a time and a place to live. It makes it more likely that you will achieve the day to day goals regardless of your motivation levels.

3. Write down your weekly goals – Visualise what you want to achieve

I am a huge advocate for writing down 3 or 4 goals for the week on a post-it and sticking it somewhere I look regularly, whether that be my diary, monitor, or desk. The objective is to write down something you want to achieve.  Seeing it a number of times every day will motivate you to achieve the goals.

4. Exercise – Improves your mental health

Without stating all the obvious benefits of exercise, another method that has motivated me daily is setting myself a step goal. Every day after I work I go for a walk regardless of the typically Irish whether (rain/wind). My aim every day is 10,000 steps.


About the author:

Annabelle Nwaokorie is a second year PhD student in the Fey Group. You can find her on Twitter @ANwaokorie or on Instagram @thephdstudent