It is hard to get things done in the lab if you are constantly disturbed or interrupted by stressful habits or annoying colleagues. Eliminate the sources of distraction and procrastination one by one if you want to gain in productivity and save more time to enjoy life outside the lab.
Here are five tips to help you do that:
- Prioritize and organize your tasks. Prepare a list of things that are urgent and important and classify them in order of priority. When you get to work in the morning, focus on the most important tasks, the ones that can really change your work or life, and try to do at least one each day. Avoid doing the things that are less important. Learn to accept that it is ok to let little bad things happen and that it is impossible to do everything. If some tasks seem really difficult to get done, break them into smaller steps or invent deadlines to motivate yourself.
- Change your e-mailing habits. Avoid e-mailing first thing in the morning. It would mix up your priority list. Wait until you got some work done before you first check your e-mails. Avoid also e-mailing last thing at night. Check your e-mails only when you are ready to actually answer to each message and to take action on the eventual emergencies that you’ll have to fix. Finally, check your e-mails no more than twice or thrice per day or you’ll just get addicted and stressed out about it.
- Do not carry a cell phone 24/7. Take at least one day off your phone per week and avoid taking your phone everywhere you go. It’s ok to not answer a phone call right away and it is ok to return it one hour later or even the next day. Let calls go to voicemail and check them all together when you’re ready to do so and to take action. Similarly, avoid answering to hidden calls. You never know what it’s about. If it’s important enough, people will leave a message.
- Prepare a program for your meetings. Ask your colleagues to send you their agenda and organize the meeting accordingly. Do not let them ramble on their experiments for hours. Instead work with them to focus on the outcome and to decide on the next actions to take.
- Just start! The most difficult part is getting started. Avoid procrastination. Stop browsing the internet and reading the news. Nothing is going to happen while you’re disconnected. You don’t need to be aware all the time. Take the first step now and start working! Next thing you know, you’re finished with the paper and the three experiments that you had to do to prepare your poster figures. It’s always easier than you expected…
Do you have other tips to share??