Research projects can be complex, and with this complexity comes a tight timeline and a costly budget. When delays and setbacks occur, the entire timeline can get shaken up and the expenses add up even more. It’s a recipe for stress for the researcher and stakeholders, but it’s also part of life and often inevitable.
If you don’t have a coping strategy to seamlessly handle the stress that comes with a mess up in your project’s schedule, your reaction can delay things even further. While you process your emotions and complain about the problem, more time is going by, wasted.
Instead of stressing about these setbacks, the important thing is to absorb the shock and respond in productive ways that focus on the solution, not the problem. Delays can happen to even the most meticulously planned research projects. It’s not the delay that matters. It’s what you learn from it and how you come to terms and move forward that counts.
Why Delays Occur
One way to be proactive about setbacks and delays is to understand why the majority of them happen and work to prevent these issues from occurring. Keeping these common setbacks in mind as potential obstacles to your project’s successful completion allows you the opportunity to recognize the signs before the setback occurs:
● Changes to the topic because it was not solidly cemented, with possible challenges predicted and accounted for, prior to the research being executed
● Lack of communication between team members and the leader or supervisor
● Researchers choosing to work by themselves without asking for help, and then missing an important element or step
● Preferring not to submit work regularly for supervisor review, so by the time it is submitted, it’s too late to catch simple problems
These are typical factors that cause delays, but they can easily be avoided if you bring them up with your team, or understand the effects of them yourself before the work begins. No one is perfect, and by choosing to ignore the opportunity for collaboration or a peer/ supervisor review, you could be causing unnecessary delays and trouble for yourself that would otherwise have been avoided.
Stress or Strategies? Make the Smart Choice
Ignoring setbacks will never make them go away. In fact, sticking your head in the sand and pretending they don’t exist generally makes a small problem turn into a huge issue that completely messes up your project. Instead of a short delay, that little bump can create a costly, time-consuming setback.
Even the best PhD researchers encounter unexpected setbacks. It’s part of the excitement in research!
Yet, when you stress about the delay, it only makes things worse. Work on making these coping strategies a natural part of how you come to terms with setbacks in your project:
● Understand the importance of flexibility. Your project is your creation. It’s your baby, and you want it to grow on schedule and as you intend it to. But you can’t control every variable, especially outside influences.
You can attempt to do the best you can with setting boundaries, building frameworks, and establishing guidelines, but the most important aspect is that you’ll need to be flexible. Make your deadlines fluid rather than rigid. Allow for a day or two delay in each smaller goal. This cushion will help you focus on the important parts, letting you be a little extra thorough where you need it and enjoying beating your deadline when you can.
● Focus on the solution. Problem-oriented thinking has its place. You need to address the setback and find out what factors contributed to it. But once you’ve dealt with those elements and understand where you, or your team member, or an outside influence, went off track, it’s time to focus on the solution.
Nothing anyone can do or say can change what already happened. Learn from the setback and focus on finding a solution to keep on going without wasting more time.
● Consider this a chance to adjust your thinking. Not all setbacks are bad things. Some of the greatest inventions have come from delays or ideas that went off of the predicted path. Take the opportunity that comes with this delay to decide if your project could be morphing into a completely different - and better - direction!
With these coping strategies, dealing with setbacks should be easier and healthier for you, your team, and your project.
Use Impactio to Be Proactive With Your Project
Part of being proactive and avoiding setbacks is making sure all your work is in one easily accessible place. With Impactio, scholars and experts have an all-in-one platform where they can store their work, communicate with supervisors and team members, and then easily demonstrate their research impact. Impactio also allows you to check the academic impact of your work once it’s published, following the citation trail as it moves and grows.
With Impactio, you can work confidently knowing you’re proactively preventing delays and setbacks the best you can.