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Ben Mead shares his solution for avoiding burnout

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ben Mead takes a short-break weekend hike in the White Mountains. Photo by Katy Abel.

A recent Nature article on the topic of work-life balance and avoiding burnout features some helpful tips from Harvard-MIT Health Sciences MEMP PhD student, Ben Mead. A 4th year student in Jeffrey Karp's lab, Ben is working on building new tools to study how the body interacts with microbes in health and disease, in a dish. 

Ben says, "One of the great things about HST is how passionate each member of our community is about their work, but this can make it difficult to disengage. This article makes a clear case for the benefits of taking the time to disengage, which can be anything from a few minutes to a few weeks, but can really help when you find you're running into a wall, which inevitably we all do."

In the article written by Kendall Powell, Ben shares his method for staying motivated in the lab on a daily basis. "'Bench scientists should incorporate daily breaks into their routines . . .' He tries to maintain the mindset that graduate training is similar to a marathon, not a short race. As such, he doesn't take lengthy holidays, but takes daily breaks and brief holidays throughout the year.

When struggling with a lack of motivation, Mead uses the 'pomodoro' technique to advance his work. The method, named after a tomato-shaped timer that its developer used, sections off tasks into 4 sets of 25-minute intervals, split up by breaks of 3–5 minutes and then punctuated by a longer one of 15–30 minutes. Mead sets his lab timer for 20 minutes of work, then gives himself a 2–3-minute break for social media or another distraction."

See the full article by Kendall Powell at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v545/n7654/full/nj7654-375a.html