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Julio E. Peironcely is a PhD student in Metabolomics and Chemoinformatics at Leiden University, The Netherlands. In his free time he writes for his site juliopeironcely.com about his research, academic life, social media, and lifestyle design. You can follow him on twitter @peyron.
This is the second part of two that reviews the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, providing academic advice for PhD students and post-docs. To view the first article and the helpful tips it provides, follow the link here.
Now that you control yourself, start working with other people and get the most of it. How can we collaborate? How can we convince them to join us?
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
This sounds a bit business-like. You should seek for partnerships that are mutually beneficial, where both parties benefit after the interaction.
If no win/win can be achieved, realize that a no-deal is a perfect compromise.
For PhD students and academics: Are you a theoretician? Seek for an experimentalist and propose to collaborate on a project (and agree on the other of authorship in related publications). See it as a project that without the other person could not be performed.
Does somebody want you to process a lot of data and do some statistics? And they don’t plan to add you as co-author? This is a win/lose situation that should be answered with a “no-deal”.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
This chapter is not only about listening, but to listen using empathy. Do not rush into offering solutions when somebody is presenting a problem. Let them finish, make the effort to understand the problem at hand. If you do so, they will reciprocate with you.
Using empathy means putting ourselves in the perspective of the other person. Do not try to filter what they say with your own assumptions and way of thinking.
For PhD students and academics: Coming again to collaborations between theoreticians and experimentalists. Try to understand how the other person’s thoughts compare to yours in key topics.
Your approach to science might be different. Your timing as well. Maybe you care more about interpretation of results while another person cares more about describing a solid methodology. You might be data-driven and the other person hypothesis-driven. In any case, see what are the other person’s fears and hopes before exposing yours.
Habit 6: Synergize
Use trust and understanding to maximize the output of a group. With careful communication, leverage the differences of the individuals in the group, so the product is much larger than the sum of the individuals.
Identify in others what’s in them that is beneficial for the group. As well, you should detect what it is about them that sets you back so you can work on adapting yourself to that.
For PhD students and academics: In a large collaborative project you might find young motivated PhDs, busy supervisors, retired experts, and other people. Instead of getting frustrated, try to maximize what they have to offer: like the energy of the PhD students, the network amplification the supervisors, or the experience of the retired guru.
Next, use your empathy skills to minimize the effect on the team of what you don’t like: the chaos of the graduate student, the busyness of the supervisor, and the same old stories by the retired expert.
It is not enough to work once on each habit and forget about them, in fact, it is a lifetime effort. Think of it as an iterative process, that you should evaluate and repeat every now and then.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Here, the author makes reference to habit 3 and encourages you to identify those things that might be keeping us from our goals. Step back, take a break, and decide what to do to renew yourself. It might be getting healthier by doing some exercise, meditating to clear your thoughts, or even re-write your mission statement.
In any case, schedule time to perform those activities that will keep your whole system running in the right direction.
For PhD students and academics: Senior scientists the sabbaticals. Since you are a PhD it might still be early for this. What you can do is to join a short side project, in order to try something new, recharge your motivation batteries, and collect new ideas.
You might want to
allocate some minutes a day to just think. What? Yeah, thinking, aren’t you paid to think? Spend time generating (and writing) ideas for future projects, grant applications, daydreaming, or simply to help others.
The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People is a bit of a philosophical book; sometimes even religious. Despite this, it can be applied in many areas of life and it can definitely help PhD students and academics to organize themselves better. If used correctly, the learning’s in this book can help you to be more effective and motivated. At the end, you will create new habits, in a natural way.