Skip to main content
Maria scientist
Maria Sharif

During this period of uncertainty, we spoke to some of our researchers in a series of blog posts to find out what it's like to be a scientist and working from home.

Hello everyone! My name is Maria Sharif and I am a PhD student in a lab of Professor Ben Willcox in the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the University of Birmingham. I am currently in my 1st year and my project focuses on exploiting the immunobiology of gamma delta (gd) T cells for development of cancer immunotherapy.

As somebody whose PhD is 100% lab-based, the situation with COVID-19 pandemic has definitely had an impact on my work. With the University being shut down and only operating with very restricted access, a lot of laboratory research had to be ceased, including mine. 

I think a lot of people find it difficult to keep focused and be productive whilst working from home. There are so many distractions and the fact that you are at home does not feel very much like work for most people, especially for those who, like me, spend the majority of their working day in the labs doing experiments.

As somebody who is generally a very organised person, I thought I could share my top 3 tips for staying productive whilst working from home, or also, in other words, tips for how to “procrastinate procrastination”: 

This is very important because otherwise you will feel very unsatisfied at the end of the day and you will probably not get much done. I love ticking off the tasks that I completed, which is extremely motivating! Don’t set yourself 20 things to do though – be realistic about what you can fit in and actually complete.

This is a must, because your productivity reduces immensely if you just work for hours straight. Take your mind off your work by doing something different for a bit, like chatting with family or reading a book, to give yourself a rest. Don’t take 50 breaks, maybe have a small break at midday, work for a bit, take a lunch break (an hour is what I tend to take for this), and then work and maybe take another little break, but I don’t always take a short break in the afternoon as I like to just get on with the rest of the work for the day and then relax properly when I’m done.

This will help you stick to your plans and you won’t procrastinate as much because you know you are working until e.g. 3pm or 4pm maximum, so you know you can have all the other fun in the remaining hours in the day (and there is no time spent on commute now so you have tons more time to rest in the afternoons).

Overall, just to finish this post, I would like to say the following - don’t worry and stay safe! Everybody is in the same boat as everyone’s plans have been scrapped due to the COVID19 outbreak, so you are definitely not alone in this. Keep in touch with people, and use this time for catching up on work, life and for just being you.