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Working from home because of COVID-19? Here are 10 ways to spend your time

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Shot of a young woman using a laptop while working from home

“Classes are cancelled, exams are being re-scheduled, university buildings are staying shut, meetings are being postponed indefinitely,” a Ph.D. student who is based in Austria tweeted last week. “Now what am I supposed to do?”

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world, many academics are of course dealing with greater concerns, such as the health of family, friends, or themselves. (See Science’s coronavirus coverage here.) But for those free of illness and related burdens, and stuck at home, what do you do with your time? Here are some ideas for scientists who suddenly find themselves working from home.

1. Take care of yourself.

As a first step, don’t neglect your physical and mental health. Meditate. Do jumping jacks in your living room. Practice yoga. Whatever it is that works for you, do what it takes to care for your body and mind.

2. Learn a new skill.

Let’s face it. If you’re stuck at home, you’re probably not going to become an expert on how to run a mass spectrometer. But you could beef up your computer programming skills—for instance, by learning how to create a fancy new graph in R or how to produce documents in LaTeX. You could also read a book about a new topic or circle back to that online course that you never finished.

3. Revisit that long forgotten project.

Somewhere in the deep, dark depths of your computer’s file system, do you have an unfinished manuscript or unpublished data? If so, then you might want to use this time to dust off the files and figure out whether what you have is, in fact, publishable.

4. Promote your work online.

Consider devoting time to a bit of marketing. Does your personal website need updating? Have you been meaning to set up a Twitter profile and learn what hashtags are? Would you like to write a popular science article? Or create a YouTube video about your research? If so, this might be the perfect time to wiggle your way out from underneath the rock you’ve been living under and find new avenues for connecting with other researchers and sharing your work. If you’re struggling with social isolation at home, then social media might also help with that—giving you a way to interact and commiserate with other scientists, such as those on #AcademicTwitter.

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