COVID tips for extroverted graduate researchers (Emily Foley)

Marvin Meyer | Unsplash 

As an extrovert, these past couple of months have been extremely difficult for me. Consecutive days of writer’s block in isolation has me missing the days where I would walk down the hallway and talk to others in my department or head down to the Agora where someone would let me complain to them about my imposter syndrome or the chapter I’m supposed to be working on. The solitary nature of the PhD journey is isolating enough for extroverts without the current social distancing measures.

A lot of the articles I have come across during COVID-19 tend to discuss the dangers of too much screen time or advice on how to switch off. But for those of us who crave constant social interaction, we are toeing a fine line between spending 100% of our time on video chats (to quote my housemate) and coming to the realisation that we have just spent ten hours on a computer chair without standing up. For me, what has really helped soothe my extroverted nature has been the social activities.

While we are starting to discuss the relaxation of measures, there are still ways that us extroverts can learn from one another. I wanted to share some of the activities that I have been doing during this pandemic in the hopes of helping other extroverts out there maintain our sanity while stuck indoors:
  • The quiz: Every Saturday I compile all the week’s newspaper quizzes and run the quiz for my friends and family. The quiz is my favourite part of the week and although numbers fluctuate, it’s a great way for us to stay connected every week without finding ourselves in awkward 20 person zoom conversations where everyone is talking over one another.
  • Music: my friendship circle has been running a Facebook group called Friday Arvo Good Vibes for about a year and a half. In the group, we all post a song every Friday afternoon. This has expanded during COVID to a special edition Tuesday session where we also post songs on Tuesday to get us through the week. Popular COVID related tracks include such songs such as “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”. We also have a working playlist with over 20 hours of songs that I have been listening to on walks and when I’m working (because strangely enough for an extrovert, working in silence is my worst nightmare).
  • Group Games: So far, we have tried 'Cards against humanity' (luckily, the online version has enough cards that you can throw away all the problematic ones and still have some left over) and online Pictionary. Both have been great when we’ve been wanting to connect with one another but also recognise the logistical difficulties of congregating online rather than in person.
  • Shut Up And Write: I became a shut up and write convert about three weeks before the Bundoora campus closed but I have been using it ever since. I’ve been attending the evening sessions online with a number of other wonderful researchers and writers and cannot recommend it enough. The pomodoro method is wonderful for an extrovert like me to feel both a sense of accomplishment and socialisation.
  • Study friendships:  I consider myself super lucky to have found my study soulmate about five years ago. Not only are they my best friend, but we can Zoom together for hours and remind each other to stay on track or provide feedback and advice. I would strongly recommend finding yourself a study buddy who can provide you with the accountability you need to remain focused during this uncertain period. I understand this doesn’t work for everyone, but as an extrovert, having someone around me (even silently) does wonders for my productivity.
Some of these activities during COVID has managed to satisfy my cravings to be around people constantly, but there are always more ways to stay socially connected while distancing. I would love to start swapping ideas about ways to stay extroverted, for example my supervisor has highly recommended zoom karaoke!

My silver lining is that I will be able to use some of these strategies to continue to maintain connections with friends and family for the remainder of my PhD journey, particularly as the closer I get to submitting, the more time I will need to spend alone.


Emily Foley is a PhD candidate and sessional academic in the Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe University. 

Her research is focused on Australian politics and migration studies. She is also the overseeing coordinator of the SAIL program and is a co-convener of Melbourne Free University. 

She is learning how to tweet at @emilyrosefoley