Productivity in Your PJs: The Beauty of Remote Retreats
Brittnee is a PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow, focusing on introduced place-names and migration in New Zealand. Previously, Brittnee obtained her BSci degree in Anthropology, and MLitt in Celtic Studies. Currently, Brittnee convenes the University of Glasgow's Onomastics reading group and works as a GTA in Celtic Civilisations. Find her on Twitter @brittneeleyysen.
We all have days where we wake up, take one look outside, and think ‘not today’. We all have days that start with a delayed delivery, a sore throat, a child/pet/partner needing looked after, or any number of disruptions that mean you are not getting to the office today. Some of us might not even have an office to go to or are located far from anything resembling a normal workspace.
The PhD can be done from anywhere, but sometimes it is hard to feel like you are doing much of anything if you are removed from others and missing any accountability/motivational check-ins you might get in a shared workspace environment. That is where remote retreats come in.
My #RemoteRetreat Experience
I found remote retreats to be a saving grace for my thesis during a time when I was living on my own, not able to make it into the office, and felt that there was no real structure to my writing habits. Like many academics, I often find myself drawn to the wisdom of ‘academic Twitter’ where helpful tips and tricks on everything from referencing managers to productivity apps can be found.
It was on Twitter that I came across the hashtag #RemoteRetreat shared on the @@PhDWomenScot account. The hashtag was started by Dr Lucy R Hinnie (@yclepit on Twitter), currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, in March of 2018. She left an in-person writing retreat and thought the experience was so useful that she decided to bring it online using #RemoteRetreat. She invited people to join her, and in the last year and a half, the hashtag and virtual writing retreat schedule has spread and been used around the world.
By using the hashtag, I discovered an entire network of academics working all across Scotland (and beyond!) simultaneously writing and working towards their individual goals in a structured online environment. Sometimes these remote retreats followed a schedule (see to the right), with windows of writing staggered between other activities like coffee breaks, check-ins, and getting outside for some stretching. I’ve seen remote retreats that encouraged others to drop in and out as they needed, using the hashtag as a way to find and support others using the day to write and meet goals as well.
One of my favourite things about participating in a remote retreat is finding other PhD students at different universities who might be doing something, or trying to achieve something, similar to myself. I find that the PhD can be so all-consuming that it is hard to look outside of your own circle of peers or even beyond your own studies to see who else is out there and what they are doing.
By participating in this multidisciplinary, multi-institution phenomenon, I get to meet and be a part of a support network for other PhD students like myself. I have attended a few in-person writing retreats where we use #remoteretreat to check-in with others who might not be able to attend in-person, and it is fantastic already knowing people from the online community we had all been a part of.
If you are not already sold on the idea of joining the #remoteretreat community and getting some work done from the comfort of your home where no one will judge you for writing in your cheetah-print onesie and downing your fourth cup of tea by 9am, then maybe the cat GIFs will. If there is one thing #remoteretreat-ers know how to do, it’s put up an applicable meme for how their session is going. My personal favourite: cat bashing the keyboard in.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by experimenting with a remote retreat. If you find that it is a format that works for you, you don’t have to wait for a ‘formal’ retreat; you can decide you’re going to operate your own, and remember to post on Twitter using #RemoteRetreat!
@UofG_PGRblog will be hosting a #RemoteRetreat on Twitter on 6 November 2019. In addition to the structured schedule and community, there will be writing advice, suggestions of people to follow on Twitter, and the opportunity to ask questions that will be sent to and answered by an expert.