Becoming a student….again


So it’s been a bit quiet from @ECRhealth …….you might be wondering why….?

Well…2015 saw us both take a leap of faith and start something new… we both became students …again! And I know what you’re all thinking… you’re all looking at this blog in disbelief yelling at the screen…. don’t you already have a PhD?! And then… what else is there to do, PhDs aren’t they as high as you can go? #wtf

Firstly if you are currently an ECR don’t freak out – a PhD is enough, in fact it’s plenty-good! Unless your #multipotentialite self desires more

Some of us continue life long learning, crafting a niche, following your inclinations… and signing up for Master’s degrees.

Whilst this sounds positively blissful, trying something new can be, and is, daunting.

hoop jump

So here are some reflections on our experience and some tips for anyone considering some more study.

  • when you’ve been a teacher/tutor/lecturer going back to study can help you re-visit & develop humility towards your students
  • when you change things up there is a whole lot to learn about maintaining work/life/study balance (cos  it is no longer possible to pull all-nighters or infuse coffee through an IV to keep you going while you finish that assignment Find what fills your cup!
  • think about self-expectations and perfectionistic tendencies – Lynsey’s best piece of advice from her 2015 mentor was to consider everything you’ve got on your plate and acknowledge that Ps get degrees (meanwhile Lynsey’s averaging a HD but losing the work/life balancing act whilst Jodie failed a task and had to resubmit and the world didn’t come to an end)!
  • enjoy the feeling of your worlds colliding as you combine knowledge and experiences from past and present work and study (who knew there would be so much psychology in a public health degree?)
  • just jump through the hoops #JJTTH
  • realise that it is easier when you go back to study to focus on content, as the ability to write, format and reference comes more naturally (particularly since that’s what we’ve been doing for the past 5 years!)

And remember ……….it’s an amazing race….. enjoy the process!

Life inspiration

Images sourced from:


Grey-fitti 2016

We have long been fans of the office whiteboard – a space for sharing inspirational quotes, new words that we’ve never heard of, key concepts that we hope if we stare at long enough we’ll start to understand (here’s looking at you neoliberalism!), and ideas that could change the world (or our worlds anyway). However, given that we won’t be sharing an office this year 😦 we are expanding our horizons and going technological – cue the 2016 virtual whiteboard! We have decided to make our blog the location for our shared whiteboard and would love for you to contribute. Please come back during the year and watch this space become covered in grey-fitti!



2016 whiteboard additions

Life long learners and leaders

who dares wins

choose happy



be comfortable with uncertainty

build humility

awesome sauce (it is a thing)





cultivate the power of joy

wake up and be awesome




cultivate the ground you are standing on

zucchini tadpoles with legs





done is better than perfect














free text disaster zone



filling my cup



bigger, stronger, wiser


sylvatic enzootic microbes


untracking the changes



inter alia

healthcare=the system, health care=the act of providing care

teamwork makes the dreamwork

pedagogy = child learning; andragogy = adult learning







Swallow the frog

Am I the teaching learner or the learning teacher?

Times of change are full of opportunities

Verstehen – understanding at a deep level

etic (out), emic (me)




‘You must first seek to understand before you are understood’



SharePoint, PowToon




And here are some oldies but goodies….

No guts no glory
Nobody is as smart as everybody
Become the biggest version of ourselves
It might just be ok— this year—-it’s OK!
Earning or learning
Be brave and press send
Just start
Chip away



Researcher Resolutions 2016

Well… 2015 threw us some curve balls, that’s for sure. Which saw us develop agility and flexibility as researchers (and people) in the face of constant change. We still managed to tick off several key professional and personal KPIs (

As researchers we always like to have something measurable in place so this planning provided an evidence-base for some academic tasks which at times can make you feel like banging your head against a wall (i.e. navigating journal submission systems, hoop jumping in the form of meeting grant specifications, and increasing administration tasks which go hand in hand with contemporary teaching roles).

Given the changes in the 2016 year and as blog collaborators not in the same office, the coming 12 months promises some unique but exciting opportunities. You’ll notice several of these involve working together across tasks… and that’s because ( ).

collaboration picture

But we digress… Writing down things we’d like to achieve and then reflecting on these proved very satisfying. So we are doing it again!

  1. Write, find, inspire some useful resources for health research
  2. Guest bloggers – let’s grow this space (AD, CB, IP, LS…)
  3. Joint paper (at least one submitted this year)
  4. Joint project planned
  5. Virtual whiteboard -our attempt to keep connected #watchthisspace
  6. Regular M&M catch ups (some for study, some for op-shopping, some for futures planning!) and more celebrations of achievements together
  7. PNI research hub (let’s dream big!)
  8. Keep working on saying no, but also saying yes
  9. Learn from conflict (try not to run away and hide from it) #Eureka
  10. Be proud of being a multipotentialite – What do you want to do when you grow up? Lots of different things!
  11. Be confident in what we have to offer
  12. Play more across work and life #worklifebalance


Each of us has some additional goals…

JOB would like to:

  • Meet all core assessment and competencies for Masters Health Psychology coursework
  • Work part-time in family business successfully #lifeofachambermaid #multipotentialite
  • Submit my nemesis paper – an RCT vitamin study for stressed women
  • Maintain research connections for future research as a Scientist-Practitioner
  • Be present. Be patient. Be persistent.

LB would like to:

  • Submit 5 current low hanging fruit papers (and have at least 3 of them get accepted)
  • Get some policy experience (maybe by embracing opportunities offered by being a member of different professional associations)
  • Follow through
  • Stop checking emails after hours
  • Be brave and step out of the comfort zone


2015 The year that was

What we achieved

In 2015 our Health Research Journey goals were to:

• Take our lessons from 2014’s grant and mould this proposal into brilliance worthy of category 1 funding
Done! (still haven’t heard how we went though, apparently ‘announcement in October’ is code for ‘we’ll let you know sometime in January…’)

• Have four papers accepted for publication
Done! With a few more currently under review 🙂

• Create an ECR network mailing list
Change of plan (oops!) – we focused on social media instead 😮

• Attend an international conference
Done! (It was in Melbourne, last week we squeezed it in, but it was still an international conference) 🙂

• Invite guest bloggers to post on their experiences of the journey
Invited – yes, received – not yet

• Get better at saying No – being strategic
Work in progress ( but we are much improved

• Reward big but also small steps towards goals
Sort of done, though our rewards chart ( slipped off the radar as we got busier

• Fail fast – it’s difficult to receive criticism and review of our work BUT if we are able to consider, take on and produce something better as a result then we can reap the rewards
Another work in progress, we are constantly developing ways how to do this but have certainly learnt a lot this year

• Attend a minimum of three lunchtime pilates/yoga classes per week
Not done. We moved offices this year which made it harder for this to be possible – we are sorry we didn’t achieve this one 😦

• Leave work at work
Sort of done. We might not have taken documents home but we took emotions home this year (Note to self: heart on sleeve not on research project). However, we have had lots of chats about work/life balance and what’s important and have tried hard to focus on these things instead

• Leave work before 6pm
Mostly done! 🙂

• Make a social life out of academia (can it be done?!)
We had some great times at conference dinners and some awesome officemate excursions and we have grown our network of people we enjoy working and hanging out with! And identified those we don’t :-/

• Be mindful of what tasks we do have control over and be careful not to overload, where possible do one task at a time and appreciate the process
Fail! But we’ve discovered we are multipotentialites ( so doing one task at a time is just…well…boring! We will continue to practice mindfulness where possible though.


What comes next

Well, what comes next looks a whole lot different than we might have thought a few months ago. 2016 will see our partnership change – we will no longer be officemates but instead be cross-sectoral collaborators. Jodie is following her dream and going back to uni to study to be a clinical health psychologist #biggestversionsofourselves. Lynsey’s current role has been extended for six months but when that door closes she is not sure what the next door will open into #hellouniversewhatdoyouhaveinstore. We are sad that this chapter is ending but are excited about the possibilities that next year holds! Times of change are full of opportunities #someonewisetoldus



Christmas traditions

This year we had a two-part grey-fitti as we moved offices in May: two offices, two whiteboards. This has led to a Christmas wordle spectacular… thanks Tagxedo!

Just say NO

Sounds easy…right? Well it’s not! Every time we attempt to write this piece we can’t because we are not quite sure that we have mastered the art of Just Say No #JSNO.

Saying no, learning, mastering and implementing saying no is often hard work. That is because it’s both powerful and important. It can lead to hard conversations and strong emotions.

But there are only so many hours in a day – how do we decide what to fit in and which big rocks need to come out of the beaker? ( And how do we decide which rocks we can fit in – and want to fit in. You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do ( It’s important to find the things that make you happy and find a way to do as much of them as possible.

mentor channel lists

But it is also important to consider the implications of our decisions. Sometimes we feel like we can’t say no because we’re trying to keep the boss happy or make the most of opportunities that might lead us somewhere exciting but our time and attention are valuable resources and need to be wisely spent.

As ECRs we are often presented with a raft of tasks to work on, some optional, others not so. There are a range of responses to try when faced with this situation:
• Just got to check with my therapist whether I can work on this with you
• That sounds great but could you email me some more information about it
• I’d rather stick a pen in my eye than do that
• (The handball: Get your supervisor to say no) I’ll need to check the work program/current team commitments
• Not sure I’ve got time to fit this in to current workload
• I’ll get back to you…

It is also important to listen to your gut – sometimes the idea of working on particular tasks has a really strong physiological response.

vomit TMOL

So it’s important to trust your instincts, think about how you would go working with this person/on this task (in the short and long term) and whether you have the stomach (and emotional energy) to say yes. Sometimes the bigger picture is reward enough, sometimes it’s not.

There are also occasions in which saying no can make us feel this bleurgh as well. Some good pieces of advice that we’ve received in the past for dealing with these potentially tricky conversations:
• Delay (thanks Hugh Kearns and Maria Gardiner When your head is screaming no but your mouth is likely to say yes – instead say, thanks for the opportunity, I’m just in the middle of something/need to check my diary – I’ll get back to you. It’s like counting to 10.
• Think about what you’ll need to give up in order to add this new task in.
• Do something only once. If you’re thinking about saying yes to an activity that you’ve already done many times before and won’t help with your career progression or your sanity levels then say no and say yes to trying something new instead.

If you’re prone to putting your hand up for things but finding it’s not helpful to life/work/career progression we suggest you:
• Minimise eye contact
• Sit on your hands
• Take detailed notes about the situation and feelings on an iPad – makes for excellent reading after the event and can clarify the decision making process. Is it the task? Is it the team? Is it the commitment?
• Go for a walk
• Phone a friend for advice.

Sometimes the universe delivers the thing you’ve been searching for and sometimes it is important to say yes but make sure it is yes to something that is important to you.

Have you found yourself in a situation of needing to say no? How did you go about it? How did it make you feel?

Conference times

We’ve just returned from a week at a conference and it has inspired us to share the entertaining and important learnings we have experienced at conferences…

Travelling to a conference
You need to be comfortable and arrive refreshed and ready to engage. Crumple free clothing is a must, especially if you run into a big potato as soon as you get off the plane. Similarly, matching your suitcase to travel clothes can make for less confusion at the luggage carousel. Wear comfortable shoes. There can be a lot of walking involved both outside and inside some enormous conference centres.


Depending on your discipline, the scale of a conference can be enormous. Fortunately lanyards and name tags have alleviated the name-forgetting-distress; however there are still times when you may need to use word association to recall who that important person was. Some of our top picks: puzzle girl, crazy suit guy, beetroot woman. On the topic of name tags though, this can be a cause of its own distress – signing in should be simple but some people have a double barrelled name conundrum, am I in the A-E or M-Z line?

You will meet all sorts of people at conferences. Some people love a conference, get super-pumped about catching up with old friends and making new ones; some people like to observe and see what’s happening in their field; some are a mixture… Thanks to Brittany Leaning (@bleaning) for this insightful blog on the 12 types of people you’ll meet at a Conference:

Networking is daunting but necessary and the sooner a conference delegate can get over the initial anxiety the sooner they will engage. The more relaxed you feel, the better conversations to be had with current and potential future peers. Professional associations are often a place to start – AGMs are sometimes scheduled around conferences so get along and get involved. Make the most of the coffee/cake/sandwich line to start a conversation with the people around you. Mentoring or buddy programmes at conferences can also assist. Attend the conference dinner – there is no better place to network than on the D-floor! Take pictures on the dance floor – you’ll need to remind yourself that to become a senior academic you’ll have to out dance the Profs. We recently saw a lot of bonding occur over a three kilo block of chocolate with a chisel and a hammer. Who knew?

conference truths
Conference Truths sourced from :

Conference stalking
Strategically identify who you might want to talk to in your field at the conference. It might be someone you’ve referenced continuously, or someone you’d really like to work with in the future. Make a list, aim high, write a few dot points about what you might like to discuss with them and then put yourself in the networking and social spaces for this interaction to happen. When you do meet someone, exchange business cards (note to self: must pack business cards), and write a couple of notes about the topic and actions you talked to someone about on the back of their card. Make sure you follow up post-conference with a casual friendly email e.g., ‘it was great to meet you last week…’

Presenting at a conference
In our previous lives as undergraduates and PhD candidates we despised and avoided public speaking at all costs. And it cost us… this was an incredible barrier to growing our research profiles and potential career progression. We have endeavoured to work on this (it’s still a work in progress) but these days we participate and sign up. We feel the fear and do it anyway. Because as researchers one of our most important roles is to translate research, make it accessible and continue to improve on our practice as researchers. Presenting to peers, policy makers, and consumers makes us think about how best to explain our work and make the material relevant to different audiences. The pressure is a privilege. Prepare adequately. Speak calmly, slowly and confidently. Fake it till you make it. And make the most of the adrenalin rush that happens the minute you walk away from the lectern!

comfort zoneOut of your comfort zone sourced from:

Social media
Social media at conferences is increasing. Representing organisations, associations and individuals can make for fragmented tweeting. It’s vital to remember – which twitter account am I today? It’s a good idea to consider developing a social media strategy prior to attending a conference. Some general rules of thumb include saving twitter drafts (posts that might be considered too controversial, particularly if you’re tweeting on behalf of an organisation), thanking followers, and etiquette. With so much content coming in you might get a case of tweeter-block. Do not panic! Breathe and just enjoy the presentation.

There are some other really important parts to conferences:
• Conferences are a marathon not a sprint so there are some side effects of this delirium. You might start dreaming about the conference – don’t be alarmed, this will pass. Just try not to interpret these too literally.
sleeping allies• Don’t try to get to every session, workshop, meeting, breakfast, and dinner. This is the joy of social media – you can get a taste of the key messages from different sessions and prevent yourself from burning out.
• Select your exhibition booth goodies carefully – the coffee mug is a great idea until it ends up smashed in your suitcase. On that, don’t worry about perfecting the sneaky steal of booth freebies – the booth delegates don’t want to pack up all their merchandise and take it back to the office, they would prefer that you take it with you so go in brazenly!
• There’s a lot of staring at screens, a lot of eating rich foods and a lot of brain power required at conferences. Make sure you pack the Rescue Remedy, B-B-Berocca and of course some Panadol. Where possible, try to resist the salted caramel tarts until the last day and make sure you always eat something green (m&ms do count).
berocca rescue remedy
Rescue Remedy ( and Berocca (

• Do something fun either side of the conference. Reward yourself for all that hard work. Some ideas we have tried and recommend – visiting Wet ‘n’ Wild on the Gold Coast, Sydney we had a day walking around the markets and various landmarks, cycling on the NSW North Coast, bungee jumping in Cairns.

waterslide minjin swing
Waterslide image sourced from:
Minjin swing image sourced from:

The key is to think about why you’re attending a conference – what are your expectations, what are you hoping to achieve, who do you want to meet, and what do you want to find out? Conferences can be fantastic sources of inspiration, crowds of people who share your passion, wanting to work together and exchange ideas to progress the field. Make the most of the opportunity and have fun!


Manuscripts are from Mars …….. Researchers are from Venus

Sometimes it’s important to remember – Research is what we do, it’s not who we are. It can be incredibly fulfilling, uplifting, fun, overwhelming, ego-filled and exhausting.

Collaborating, working with manuscripts, research in general – if you asked us about our relationship status with research? #ItsComplicated. In particular, on our Health Research Journey we’ve had some love/hate relationships with our paper writing.

Here are a few things we’ve said about manuscripts we’ve been in relationships with …

1. It was love at first cite
2. Are we exclusive or are you seeing other papers
3. I’d like to take things slow
4. I don’t want roses, I want ORCIDs
5. We need to spend some quality time together
6. I’m seeing other papers
7. We need some time apart
8. Where is this relationship going?
9. Let’s not rush into anything
10. I liked you better when you were a conference paper
11. I think we are just staying together for the kids (or the funding body)
12. You’re not really my type
13. I need to work out who I am (especially for interdisciplinary manuscripts)
14. I’m not sure this is the right time for us
15. I don’t see a future for us
16. I think we need to break up
17. I’m having a fling with an old flame (reviving a new version)
18. I need some space (between paragraphs, plus italicised headings and APA referencing)
19. We need to define what our relationship is
20. I’ve been knocked back before so I’m wary about investing too much
21. I’ve set you up on a blind date (with a reviewer)

This is not only about our relationship with our manuscripts; it’s often, and often more importantly, about the relationships between colleagues and co-authors. If you’re lucky you’ll strike a match made in research heaven but sometimes these relationships are just plain tricky and sometimes hard work (It’s not you it’s me… no it’s really you). More on this in future posts… (Coming up soon: ‘Saying no’).

Here are some relevant publishing tips we wish we’d read earlier in our research careers…

Wear your heart on your sleeve, not on your research project.

heart(Image sourced from Crunchy Badger)

What’s your current manuscript relationship status? #ResearchItsComplicated

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