How to Manage Your Time and Improve Productivity in the Laboratory?

Time-clock

Time Management

Time is a precious non-renewable resource. Management of time is key to your efficiency at workplace and brings with it several benefits.

  • Feeling of achievement on completion of tasks in allotted time
  • Recognition of your work efficiency by your management
  • Spare time for other activities

Your capacity for planning and timely execution of tasks in hand will make you stand out in your organization. Priorities do change at times but if you have trained yourself in time management you will still be able to complete all your tasks within the assigned time.

Useful guidelines for improvement of your laboratory productivity:

  • It is a good practice to start your day in the laboratory by spending 10 to 15 min on analysis planning
  • Update records of all received samples so that no sample is missed out.
  • Samples requiring same parameter testing should be grouped together before analysis. This will leave valuable time in sample dissolutions, preparation of common mobile phase, etc
  • Always adopt FIFO – first in first out approach unless changes in schedules are approved by higher management
  • Adopt only validated methods for testing
  • Ensure availability of calibrated instrument and volumetric glassware in advance
  • Understand matrix composition of sample and also know the required levels of detection. Your selected technique should be capable of analysis in the desired concentration range
  • Analytical balance, pH meter and all other related instruments or accessories should be calibrated
  • Maintain required environmental conditions to prevent errors due to cross contamination which may require repetition of results
  • For chromatographic analysis required gases, mobile phases, conditioned columns, working standards and buffers should be made available in advance
  • For trace metal studies ensure availability of required hollow cathode lamps or electrode less discharge lamps before starting the analysis
  • Make a practice of making direct entries of readings and calculations  in the laboratory notebook. Making entries on filter paper, rough notebooks, diaries, scrap paper is not permissible under good documentation practices and there are high chances of such data being misplaced
  • Maintain a stock of essential spares and consumables
  • Ensure that you have been provided relevant training on the required technique.

I would highly recommend reading the book –’ Getting things done” by David Allen. It will help you not only organize your day to day tasks but will also help you make a plan for the weeks, months and even years ahead so that all your actions are in the line with your long-term goals .

Some points I have learnt from the book are

  • Get in the  habit of  noting down all your tasks in your diary and not on loose sheets. Update these entries daily.
  • Don’t put anything that is less than 2 min task on your list – just do it right now
  • Don’t try to do everything yourself – if you can delegate it to someone then delegate and note down for future follow-up
  • Spend some time to make a long-term plan for your life and make sure everything you do in the short and medium term is in line with your long-term goals.

If you are able to adopt only a fraction of the concepts given in this book it will go a long way to improve your productivity.

I hope some of the points covered in the article will appeal to you. Please feel free to offer your suggestions and comments.

About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.

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