Last year has been quite a challenge for not only my clients but for me. We were able to launch a series of new labs across the country and its come to our attention that some of the bigger challenges with managing a new venture has been bandwidth, or knowing how to best mitigate distractions.

However, the real question is knowing where to direct your attention.

How many grants should you apply for? Where to find help to maintain your lab? How much money do we have until the next year? Who can you trust to give you sound advice? These questions are only related to managing the “business” of your science, let alone managing the actual science. 

Many investigators don’t take into account their cognitive effort or energy.

When it comes to managing your lab, you have to realize that it takes a lot of physical and mental energy to maintain a steady workflow without the stress of missing deadlines, or wasting time and money. To ensure that you’re not missing things and losing sleep, you can “chunk” the lab management process into FOUR categories.

The categories are the following:

  1. Financials
  2. Personnel
  3. Operations
  4. Data

Chunking in management is the process of breaking projects into smaller workable parts which allows you to stave off overwhelming or over-complicating the tasks even further. By breaking them into categories, it allows you to be able to manage the workflow comfortably and confidently.

This process can break down the lab management duties into four manageable “buckets”, which can help organize your workflow. Each pre-sorted task can be placed into a schedule that you can track and easily follow over time.

Breaking down your lab management process can help to conserve mental energy and further save you time and money. You become less reactive and you become more proactive by organizing your workflow.

Whenever you’re confronted with issues or tasks which requires action, you can triage them into categories for further processing when you can focus your attention on that particular subject/ category.

Here are some examples.
Do you need a budget report? Place it into the “Finance” category.
Do you need to hire a new tech? Place it into the “Personnel” category.
Do you need to update a grant fund agency? Place it into the “Finance” category.

You can then process each of these categories at a dedicated time. For example, tackle all finance tasks or issues on Fridays at 9 am. Then, address all personnel topics on Monday’s at 2:00 pm.

Scheduling or allocating time to each of the bucketed tasks helps to relieve the strain of mental task-switching and decision fatigue. This strategy can give you time to appropriately handle each of the tasks thoughtfully and helping to decrease costly mistakes/errors.

What if an item or task needs your immediate attention? Well, yeah…I’ve addressed this in a previous post…Take 10! However, a majority of the tasks or issues do not need our immediate attention. If we get into a workflow rhythm, then when urgent matters do come up, we can handle them appropriately, with confidence.

We have an example of what this workflow into a checklist series which you can develop your own process.

If you’d like more information, or you have your own productivity hack, please feel free to share with us.