Snowbound? Get to work!

by on 17th of December, 2010 in Organization & Productivity
About Vicki Ronaldson
Vicki studied chemistry at the University of Aberdeen (graduating in 2005), before moving to the University of Edinburgh to complete her PhD in synthetic organic chemistry. Following this, she spent one academic year as a transferable skills demonstrator at the University of Strathclyde, running tutorials and workshops covering topics such as scientific writing, presentation skills and team working. This was followed by a move into industry within a pharmaceutical CRO, where she was first a clinicial research scientist and laterly marketing manager. Vicki currently works in public policy within the science and technology field. Vicki is a Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Clinical Research, the Academy of Pharmaceutical Scientists and the Controlled Release Society, as well as an Associate of the Higher Education Academy. In her spare time she enjoys horse riding and reading the Onion. (Separately, of course). Likes to blog at

It’s been snowing rather a lot of late.  And as a result, the UK is in something of a state of chaos.  Traffic is gridlocked all over the place – particularly in Scotland, from where I report on this sudden meteorological mayhem – and schools, shops and workplaces are all shutting up shop until the temperature looks somewhere halfway near zero.  Depressingly, it looks set to continue like this for the next week at least.  Yip, that pesky snow has put a right spanner in the works for us.

But – we should be taking advantage of the days off work to actually get some work done!  If you’re snowbound somewhere (at home obviously, not in your car – there’s really not much you can do in that case, sorry) see it as a chance to power through all those little administrative tasks you’ve been putting off.  If you’re feeling uninspired, here are just a few things you could be doing instead of watching daytime TV and browsing facebook for snow-related status updates:

Reading, reading, reading (and actually taking it in…)

No I don’t mean Cosmo.  Being stuck in the house (quite possibly unable to leave without risking frostbite or an ice slippage incident) is the perfect time to read all the scientific papers you printed off and tossed into the abyss of the ‘to read’ pile.  How often can you really digest a paper properly in the office with the background noise and distractions of the lab? Get it done now!

Getting Organised

Give your laptop an overhaul, filing everything in a sensible place (in other words, not all over the desktop).  Papers, data, reports, the lot.  This is the type of job that you could never really justify sacrificing a day’s lab work for, but since you can’t get to the lab, it’s totally acceptable!  It will also make you feel super-organised (a rare and beautiful feeling for grad students) and save you a lot of headache come thesis time.


Similar to the above in the sense that, if nothing else, it makes you feel good.  Got a pile of e-mails you’ve been ignoring?  Get on it!


If earth-shatteringly amazing ideas frequently flit through your mind (of course they do,) but you’re always too preoccupied with the practicalities of the task in hand to give them any further thought, now’s the time to revisit your ‘eureka’ moments and get something on paper.  Spending too much time caught up in the thick of a project can stifle creativity.  Removing yourself from the day-to-day stuff from time to time is necessary to see the bigger picture.  And since you’re snowed in anyway, you’re not really even missing any lab work!

A wise person once said (in fact perhaps I just made it up) that the key to wellbeing is having a ‘to do’ list and having every item on it ticked off.  It’s the little, and often inconsequential tasks that we ignore and allow to build up (because we’re too busy getting ‘real’ work done) that niggle away and gradually lead to an overall feeling of disorganisation, that actually compromises our productivity and the quality of the ‘real work’.

A snow-induced ‘get-out-of-lab-free’ card here and there is just the thing you need to get you back on top of things.

And if I can’t persuade you to take the practical approach, then just treat yourself to some quality time to unwind by taking a walk in the snow, as it’s absolutely beautiful.

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