Today, I am inviting Stephanie Verkoeyen to the"How I Work" series. Very much an advocate of the belief that "out of diversity, interesting shapes emerge", Stephanie's educational and professional pursuits span a wide variety of topics. Having completed her Bachelors and Masters degree in Environmental Science, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Human Geography at the University of Waterloo, focusing on tourist behaviour. Much of her spare time is spent trying to improve teaching and learning experiences in higher education.
Current Job: 3rd year Geography PhD candidate
Current Location: University of Waterloo
Current mobile device: Android
Current computer: MacBook Pro
Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I seem to spend half of my time focused on my own research, and the other half on education development. In the case of the former, I spend my time exploring the reasons behind tourists’ changes in behaviour in response to climate change impacts. With the latter, my time is spent on committee work, teaching, course development, and facilitating workshops for graduate students
What does your workspace setup look like?
Because I live out of town, I tend to do most of my work from home. I’m lucky in that I have a wonderful home office that’s effectively a sunroom. The natural light is a welcome change from my on-campus basement office that I share with 10 other people.
How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
I’m old-fashioned and stick to an agenda to keep myself organized. If it’s not physically written down, it doesn’t exist.
What do you listen to when you work?
I don’t generally listen to anything when I’m working. Noise tends to distract me, especially if I’m concentrating on something.
What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
I’m currently reading Us Conductors, the 2014 Giller Prize winner that recounts a fictionalized relationship between Lev Termen (inventor of the theremin) and musician Clara Rockmore.
I’ve never had a problem finding time for reading. The biggest change has been in terms of content matter – I tend to steer clear of denser literature or non-fiction.
Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?
Definitely more of an introvert. I need to first spend time with and develop an idea on my own before I’m comfortable approaching anyone else with it. Once I’ve had a chance to discuss the idea I’ll then hunker down to work on my own again.
What's your sleep/work routine like?
Both my sleep and work routine are fairly regular, in large part I think because my husband has a regular 9-5 work schedule. I try to stick to a 9-5 routine, but recently have been finding that I tend to work best in the morning. So some days may start at 7, with a mid-day break.
One of the things I like best about the PhD life is that there’s nothing ‘routine’ about it. Some days I may spend reading journal articles, while others I’m at the university teaching. I do try to do most of the ‘heavy-lifting’ (i.e. writing) first thing in the morning while my brain’s at its best, and save some of the more menial (or fun tasks to reward myself) until the afternoon.
What's the best advice you ever received?
I hit a particularly unproductive period over the summer and found myself reading a lot of advice columns for PhD students. The best piece of advice I came across was to ‘just start’.
No matter how painful it is initially, after the first 15-20 minutes you start to get into your task. It’s amazing how well this has worked for me; especially on those days I want nothing more than to crawl back into bed.