Being a lab manager, you have a long to-do list from monitoring experiments to reading to analyzing documentation to coordinating with scientists and more. To make your to do list less overwhelming, work harder, not smarter.
Francine Jay, efficiency expert, says that productivity isn’t about doing more. “My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do,” she says. So, how can you take some of the items off your lab’s daily to-do list?
Working to run a more efficient lab will not just help you eliminate or reduce the time to finish those daily tasks, but also help you better manage your resources and staff— yielding the best research results (with the best margins).
How Can I Improve Laboratory Productivity?
Do you face many distractions while working in your lab? Do you spend too much time on routine, manual tasks? Do you often find yourself looking for lab supplies but in vain?
If you answered yes to any of the questions mentioned above, it’s time for you to adopt some great productivity hacks for lab managers to make your tasks easier, your lab more efficient and your staff more productive.
How to Create Efficient Lab Workflows
Here are 6 tips to help you create the most efficient lab space for yourself.
1. Use Technology
With the rise of technology and remote work, managing a digital laboratory offers many benefits. Going digital makes it easier to access information from anywhere and organize and store information. By removing papers and files from your lab, you can also reduce clutter, giving you more space for lab equipment and experiments.
In addition to information storage, you can also manage your team virtually and ensure maximum productivity. Here are the best remote collaboration tools to help you make the most of technology.
By switching to a digital lab, you can take one step towards being more productive and help to prevent research delays due to missing access to needed info.
2. Automate Processes
Automation makes it easier for lab managers to focus on more specialized tasks and responsibilities. Automated tools can take care of data entry tasks like documenting experiment hypothesis, analytical data and other metrics, freeing up your time to focus on higher order tasks at hand. Automation doesn’t just eliminate human error but also helps your scientists spend their valuable time and energy in the right direction and be more productive.
3. Redesign Your Lab Space
The design of your lab plays just as important a role in maximizing productivity as the design of your experiments. A decluttered and well-organized lab makes space for insightful ideas and breakthrough research. Take time to clean your equipment to ensure its long life and redesign your lab space to make your research more efficient.
If your current lab space is unable to accommodate your equipment and scientists, relocate to a better place that provides more space to organize both equipment and personnel. If you’re looking at relocating, this comprehensive lab move guide will help you plan a smooth transition.
4. Maintain Detailed Documentation
Proper documentation is a tedious but integral task in lab management. Easy access to comprehensive data fosters a more efficient environment and helps in identifying the underlying bases of experimental results. Documenting integral details, including but not limited to experiment results, notes, feedback, and updates, builds an extensive digital repository that can prove valuable in the future.
Use your documentation to conduct an audit monthly, quarterly, or yearly depending on your lab’s experiment pace and learn from past observations. You can use a lab notebook or other note-taking software depending on your lab's specialty.
5. Optimize Inventory Management
Do you ever feel like you have all the resources you require but it’s impossible to locate them at the right time? A Laboratory Inventory Management System will help you solve this obstacle. Keep track of the newly arrived items and their available stock.
Check your inventory on a weekly or bi-monthly basis to ensure all the supplies you need are available in stock. Use cloud-based inventory management systems (for some labs, a shared lab inventory Google Sheet is a huge help) to track stock and notify you when it’s time for reordering. When these automated tools take care of your supply management, you get more time to focus on more productive tasks.
6. Plan Experiments
The first step to increasing lab productivity is to plan your experiments in advance. Break your experiment into small sprints and schedule your work throughout the week, month, or year. This workflow keeps you prepared for the upcoming tasks and gives enough time to correct mistakes in case your experiment didn’t go as planned. Give yourself a cushion so you’re not scrambling to meet deadlines, and leave time to prepare for the next task on the timeline.
Many lab managers make use of journals or whiteboards to plan their schedule— try Google Docs or sync your calendar to keep track as a virtual management method. Here’s a guide to help you plan your lab experiments more effectively.
If you haven’t started optimizing your lab and analyzing where you have time sucks, now is the time to get started. Running an efficient lab helps teams to save time, improve employee productivity, and reduce lab spend.
Using technology, lab managers can free up their time and their employees’ time to focus on research and accelerate innovation!
For more tips on driving efficiency in your lab, check out our on demand webinar with lab experts on proven strategies to run your lab more effectively.