How to Write a Manuscript During the Lockdown

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Part 1: Setting your workplace

In March of this year, the Mexican government announces the suspension of activities in all the universities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The first tactic was the implementation of social distancing ( Something that everybody can do during Coronavirus, Social Distancing). This tactic is working around the globe. However, not all the population have the opportunity to do a personal lockdown. Fortunately, academics, teachers, and researchers can.

For a postdoctoral researcher like me who is doing nanoscience ( synthesis of thin-films), the main problem was to suspend the laboratory activities. My work is based on the fabrication of materials and their characterization through specialized equipment. Here is the problem, with a suspension of activities, my research was halted. Fortunately, I was able to acquire the 3/4 parts of the characterization data. Furthermore, whit this information, the next step was marked: Go Home and Write the Manuscript.

Go Home and write a manuscript.

Writing a manuscript during COVID-19 lockdown is not an easy task and I can prove it. Read carefully the following list and think a little bit why:

  • Home is not designed for work
  • Home duties are mix with your working day
  • Distraction is everywhere: Family, pet, social networks, etc.
  • Frustration and anxiety

Those things on the list are the main restrictions I was dealing with it. The first feeling to appear was frustration because it is linked to the deadlines of the current research project. No matter what, lockdown or not, there will be an end of this work. However, the first thing I did was get informed, prepare the field and change my mind.

Change your mind!
This lockdown is an opportunity in life

I change my mind because there was no escape to this situation, and I need to continue with my main purpose. For now, it is doing what I love and to find a job on the road. It sounds easy but believes me it is not because you should get the courage to stand up. The good news is that this courage is inside us. The first thing I did was to get informed about how to prevent the COVID-19 infection. I am still watching the information published by the WHO (World Health Organization). You know, get information from the source is the best thing you can do in this situation.

Think this way: lockdown is an unexpected situation. Therefore, it is time to invest in acquiring the best condition you can afford. I am not telling you to build a bunker; this kind of panic does not work. But, you need to get your reserves to leave less out from your home. By now, let me continue with this post and tell you how to set your place and be productive during this lockdown.

1. Build your Workspace

Everyone have a preference for the workplace. But here, I am sharing mine. The purpose of my place is to be comfortable for a considerable period (> 2 hours). The first thing you should get is a comfortable chair, the second is a kit of keyboard + mouse, and the final one is a computer stand (look mine, looks so professional). In my case, I previously owned the computer, keyboard, and mouse. Therefore, I only spend buying the chair. Do not worry. If you are running out of money, be creative, and ask for help from your friends.

Do the possible to place your office far from common distractions. In this moment, with distractions I mean, no TV or your bed.

2. Organize your day: Schedule

The second problem I was dealing with is my home duties because they were mixed. Fortunately, the only thing you need for investment here is time. To start working. First, you should clean and organize your place, and I mean all your home. When you finish the cleaning is time to organize your day, but remember thos two things all the time:

One, the day only have 24 hours and two: “the most important thing is health”

Schedule (Hypothetical):

  • 11:00 PM – Sleep: Reserve 8 hours, maybe you will sleep less.
  • 7:00 AM – Wake up, go to the bathroom, do some exercise and prepare a Cup of coffee.
  • 9:00 AM – Shower time: Please don’t skip a shower because you should be comfortable all day long.
  • 10:00 AM – Prepare Breakfast
  • 10:30 AM – Work, you decide how much time to spend in front of your desk. For me, 45 min is Ok. Remember, get focus is the critical point during drafting the manuscript
  • 2:00 PM – Prepate your meal
  • 5:00 PM – Finishing the workday
  • 6:00 PM – Dinner time
  • Do your things: Hobbies, family, call your friends, prepare your groceries, read, etc.

The last schedule is the backbone of my day, you can change it depending on your lifestyle. But remember, at this stage we need to create a new routine. In my case I spend 15 days approximately. By the way Do not lose time and begin right now. If you need a little bit of help, you cand use Google Calendar. This application will remind you what is next during the day.

This picture is my Daily Schedule for a working day programmed in Google Calendar.

3. Keep distractions out!

Distractions are everywhere, but this time we need to talk about interactions with the world wide web. I am not the only one who is trying to get apart from social networks. The first thing you must do is to place your phone far from your desk, maybe put it inside of a shelve. These two little things will help you a lot because our phone is the principal source of distractions. I’m not lying you, pay attention because notifications will coming all day long. However, do not power off the phone because interaction with your family and friends are essential for mental health.

What I have learned during these lockdown days is we need space to get focus, let’s create it!

My last advice is related to develop a routine for working on your computer. For example, If you need to check your email, you must establish a time for it, maybe during the morning or during the night, but do not check it every time. Do not be hard with yourself closing your social network accounts. I am keeping mine open, to share information. What we need here is a digital barrier between you and the social networks because these places are highly addictive. During the first week, it will be hard, everyone is out there. They will try to catch your attention. They are trying not to get bored. And they will need to be in touch with somebody else.

On the web, there are some tools that will help you to keep distractions out putting a digital barrier. I recommend you two Apps . These applications will block the websites you choose (blacklist) when you try to access them during your working time. Personally, I turn on this app for 45 minutes long:

I usually spend 45 minutes blocking Social Networks like FB and Youtube in Focus app.
For chrome and android I use Forest App to keep blocking my distracting sites during the working time:

Finally, I expect my experience setting this environment to write a manuscript will help you during the COVID-19 lockdown. Please, #StayHome and practice #SocialDistancing.

Now, it is time to work on the manuscript. Are you ready for the second part?

Jesus Capistran

Developing thin-film solar cells

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