Planning, planning, always planning

I’m a big time planner. I plan ahead for my meals (the components of it, not the final recipe), outfits, main things to do/visits on vacation. I’m pretty much the complete opposite of “going with the flow” or a free spirit. Sure, things not always happen according to plan (which is why I often have a plan B or even C) but this feature of mine has come pretty handy since I work in Science.

Here is the thing: Whenever possible, I plan all my week’s experiments on Monday morning (ok, fine, I might start thinking about them on Sunday, I have issues, fine) by making an outline of the type of things I want and can do. With experiments that involve longer time points or shared machines, the planning might start earlier, just to avoid having everything ready and then realizing that all the laminar flow hoods are taken.

With that outline, I can check (and double check) that all equipment will be free, that all reagents are available or, if I have to prepare new solutions, get them ready in advance. I can also plan the schedule so my big experiment doesn’t put me in the same room with a cologne over user. Planning has been my safety net for the past years, working in a lab, where reagents disappear without notice.

You are probably thinking that in Science you can’t always plan that much ahead: what if the cells don’t grow? What if there is a blackout while you are spinning your samples? What if the lamp in the microscope burnt and no one said anything? All of these has actually happened to me, mind you. I cannot plan for most of these things, but I can have a main idea of what to do, and from there I can respond to most surprises.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t get frustrated, I do. It doesn’t mean that everything always goes my way. It just means that I can bounce back a bit more easily. That is my method and I know it’s not for everyone and that a lot of people see it like a bit of an exaggeration of my part. But it has worked for me so far.

Today’s post is not an explanation or even advice, it is more of a suggestion. Find whatever helps you deal with the unexpected around the lab. I’m not talking about a hobby to take your mind out of the lab, I’m talking about something to deal inside the lab. If you are planning to work in science for a long time, you will need it sooner or later, and with that long days will seem more manageable.

What do you do to deal with the unexpected? Let me know in the comments. In the meantime have a nice week.

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