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Olga Degtyareva: helping women in science to be more productive at work

Olga Degtyareva: helping women in science to be more productive at work

Olga Degtyareva: helping women in science to be more productive at work

2 December 2013

Olga Degtyareva, a research scientist for the last 13 years, now runs her own company Productivity for Scientists helping women to be more productive at work and to feel happier in their lives.

I have been a scientists for my whole adult life, got my MSc in 1999, then PhD followed by two postdoc positions and a personal Fellowship from the Royal Society, all in the same area of research, condense matter physics. It’s been a successful research career, quite straightforward and filled with interesting work, high-profile papers, invited talks, and even an international prize and a key-note lecture.

It’s been a shiny and successful career on the outside, not so shiny on the inside. Moving from country to country made it difficult to keep relationships or start a family; personal challenges eventually led to a depression. I felt that my life was passing by while I am doing something I have not necessarily chosen or wanted to do even if I was pretty good at it.

Luckily at some point back in 2005 I decided to start looking for answers to my question of how to be successful at work AND be happy in life at the same time! I decided to do this no matter what. And few years later after tons of therapy, coaching, courses and books I have found pretty cool answers. Things started to look more positive in my life and work. The year 2010 saw the highlight of my research career when I was awarded an international prize and published an extensive review: all of that while remaining an involved mom of two young children. That year I took up some coaching offered and subsidised by the Scottish Resource Centre (SRC) and attended an SRC career development workshop (read about it on Olga’s blog). That same year I started my personal blog, and a year later I was having a part-time business mentoring scientists in productivity having switched to working part-time at the University.

In the year of 2013 I have finally let go of the University pay check and transitioned to being a businesswoman running my own company. I mentor scientists - mostly women - helping them overcome overwhelm, get in charge of their day, become more productive while feeling happier in their lives. As my practice is thriving I realise that many women scientists are in need of such attention, care and support!

Olga with her children

Olga and her 3 children (now 6 years, 4 years and 9 months old)

Now I really want to ask you ONE question. What does “being more productive” means to YOU (please post in comments!)? For many women who come for help to my blog or start working with me through a coaching program, “being more productive” is usually about managing their work load, writing and publishing more papers, writing and submitting their thesis, submitting grant or fellowship applications, applying for a promotion, finding work/life balance or simply feeling more on track and in charge of their day.

To help scientists achieve all of the above and more in a short amount of time I developed a Productivity for Scientists System TM through which I take people in my courses and programs. It is all about getting clear on your priorities, learning to keep focus on what is important to you on a regular basis, letting go of what is not in alignment with your priorities, taking time to integrate new habits and practices into your work and life. It is about learning to set boundaries and say No more often, working on your mindset and beliefs that limit you in achieving your goals.

In this process you learn news ways of making decisions: the kind of decisions that are not based on fear but made from the place where you want to be. This work leads you to become more proactive and take actions that are in alignment with what you want in contrast to a more common scenario of doing what’s expected. It takes time for the new ways of doing things to become a habit and this is why in every program I provide support and accountability over an extended period of time to make those changes sustainable.

You can use this system right now to get unstuck with a research paper or your thesis that you were meant to write for weeks or even months now. Overcome procrastination, receive inspiration and motivation, get all the tools to get unstuck and start writing in my FREE virtual lecture on “Top 3 things that stop you from writing and what to do about it”

One of the things that stop us from writing or moving forward with any project is … procrastination. It’s when you want to start writing but you find yourself doing anything but writing. You seem busy but there is little or no progress on your project. You might be finding it difficult to say NO to all those things that distract you from your priority. You might be waiting until it feels right to start writing: until you feel you know enough, or until you are in agreement with the supervisors or other co-authors. You might be waiting for the analysis to be finalised or for your lab work to finish. Consciously you know that it is time to start writing, and you know you could be doing it in parallel with finishing the analysis or the lab work, and yet week after week passes by and you have not started writing.

You might be having many other things on your plate: other commitments at work such as teaching and marking, or commitments outside your research such as another job, a business; health or family issues, or taking care of your children. You might be saying to yourself: “I just sort out all those things and get all those tasks out of the way, and then I will start writing” But this never happens. “Things” and “tasks” just keep popping up, and you keep solving them and sorting them out. You are so good at it!! But the paper or thesis remains untouched.

There is even more to this. Fears, worries and anxieties stop us from writing or slow us down on our way to achieving a goal: fear of your work not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of success, anxiety of being “too late”, low self-esteem and self-confidence, constant self-criticism, self-blame and negative self-talk. What I discovered is that many women are trapped – as I used to be - in a self-made prison of constant berating and comparing themselves to others or that ideal woman that does not even exist.

These are the problems scientists have been sharing with me over the past 3 years or so. These exact issues come up again and again, and if any of these sound familiar, you are not alone! And I have the exact step-by-step answer for you on how to overcome procrastination, get unstuck, get the right mindset, start writing, grow content of your writing project fast, stay on track and finally complete it. It is all in my free virtual lecture on “Top 3 things that stop you from writing and what to do about it.” 

Working with women scientists I have also discovered that there is always MORE to it than just wanting to publish more papers or submit a thesis. Women often share that they want to be doing more of what they love, do more of what is important to them, have more understanding of what it is they want in this life, have more meaning to their work. They want to feel accomplished and that they are making progress, they want to just wake up in the morning and be able to look forward to their day, they want to finally stop rushing and start enjoying more of the beautiful moments of life. They want to stop to constantly apologise and worry about what others think of them and start being more of themselves!

In the private coaching and the events I host for women we work on achieving those things through learning self-love, self-respect, and self-care, showing patience, compassion and support to themselves, learning to focus on a solution rather than the problem, and learning how to attract positive results. For many women it is about getting clear on what they want! Many share it feels like FREEDOM to finally allow themselves to do more of what they love.

I now find myself on a mission to help women scientists to let go of who they are supposed to be in order to be who they really are.

I feel so privileged to be working with these wonderful women who have the courage to step up, to reach out for help and support, to face their challenges, to get out of their comfort zone, to learn more about themselves, and to reach for something bigger and better that feels authentic, fulfilling and exciting to them.

Olga with women at the retreat

Olga and the attendees of the “Creating Change Women’s Retreat” Olga hosted this Autumn in Edinburgh

Start your journey to becoming more productive at Olga Degtyareva’s blog Productivity for Scientists, download your free productivity resources from the top of the page.

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