I always took that answer as a challenge: What can we change? What can we fix?”
- Lean the layout
The bleach residue on the benchtop indicates that your trusty centrifuge has not been moved from its current location at any point over the last 20 years. Do you find yourself walking 20 extra steps to that centrifuge, instead of moving it to a better location? Spend a day tracing your steps and consider the optimal location for each piece of equipment you touch. Take an informal poll. Chances are, most of you are thinking the same thing about what might work better in your area. Are the items you use most often within easy reach? After a day of assessment, make changes that seem most obvious and test your layout the next day. This doesn’t have to mean demolition and reconstruction. Even a few simple moves—swapping the printer and computer or rearranging a shelf—can simplify your workday.
- Trash the trash
Do you constantly rummage through drawers full of junk to try to find the one item you actually use regularly in that drawer? Do you have supplies with a receive date from the last century? Oh, how excited we get to find a box of slides received in 1988. But why in the world do we have that? We may be “lab rats”, but let’s not be “pack rats”! Spend a day getting rid of junk. Clear out those overfilled drawers with supplies from yesteryear. Do you have three cytospins but only use one? Free up your benchtop by donating items to local schools or research labs. If you haven’t used the item in the last 5 years, you probably don’t need it. And if you really can’t part with something, at least store it somewhere out of the way, allowing you to better use the space in your work area. It can be scary to actually get rid of stuff, but decluttering can increase efficiency by freeing up the space around you for the things you actually use.
- Purge the paper
Thankfully, electronic systems have greatly reduced the amount of paperwork in our labs. But they have not eliminated our paper problem entirely. It’s still easy to be overwhelmed by how much paperwork and documentation we require. I have talked about standardizing your documentation before, and how it can cut down your paperwork and improve your workflow. Definitely consider those ways of streamlining your forms and records to make life easier. When the binders and boxes are full, don’t hesitate to get them out of your way! Most of our institutions already contract with archival companies, so make sure to use them. Request frequent pickup for full boxes and implement an archival schedule that accommodates the needs and requirements of your lab.