The Post-It approach

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2015-01-05 06.51.51

My morning desk with last night’s Post-its.

Another of my goals this time is to blog more continuously. Yesterday I followed a Twitter chat tagged #blogchat and the resounding advice I got was that the more you blog the easier it gets (as everything in life). And a bit like mentioned in my previous post, there are days for deep reflections and there are days for quickies. And today is a quickie day.

The first job I held after my postdoc was with a small biotech company in San Diego. The culture shock took place at many levels, but what affected me most from a practical point of view was the limitation of time to work. There was no way to do labwork during the weekends, and lab data had to be stored and processed in the company computers as well as input in a traditional countersigned lab notebook. Even evening work was discouraged!

At one level that was quite liberating- I could not work from home, so I actually worked Monday to Friday only. On the other hand, I had to be very organized and very efficient- if I blew my early week experiment that was it: a whole week was lost.

Enter the Post-it method.

Fridays became the “scrapbooking day,” e.g. the day when we would work on the lab notebook, analyzing the data, and then printing, cutting out, and glueing the graphs for the coming week’s dreaded lab meeting. That was also the day of preparation for next week’s experiments. I prepared all reagents that I could make in advance, and made detailed lists of fresh reagents I had to make on the spot. I actually calculated the exact volumes or weights I had to use, step by step.

Before leaving on Friday afternoon, I made a set of Post-its with the first tasks for Monday morning. Again, it was quite detailed: put the trypsin in the incubator, take 400 ul of the XYZ stock and add to 600 ul of whatever, turn on the instrument.

Silly as it might have seemed on a Friday afternoon, they were life-savers on Monday mornings after the hiatus of a complete weekend.

I still use Post-its a lot. In the evening, or whenever I am finished for the day with my tasks, I prepare my set of Post-its with specific directions on what to do next morning. It saves me the time of thinking through the tasks.

Do you have any other little tricks that help your productivity? Please share in the comments!

Nudging my Dad

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Dad and I, in the very beginning.

As I write these lines, my dad is already up in Havana. He stays up late at night and gets up early, sometimes in the middle of the night if inspiration hits him. After breakfast he will sit and fire up the oldish PC and check his email through a dial-up connection. As most people in Cuba, he does not have access to internet at home, but he can send and receive emails, the main way of communication between us. Through the years I have subscribed him to newsletters, and copied and pasted big chunks of information and articles into bodies of email for him to read. In his 80s, my dad is still very curious about the world.

That is one of the reasons I subscribed him to my blog. Other reasons include an added motivation for me to write regularly. But my main hope is that he will be eventually writing his own blog and that way widen his circle.

ana papi sepia

Dad and I, last year.

My dad has many stories to tell. He wrote an autobiography some years ago where he tells about his “lives in succession” from his native Spain to Cuba. After the first book, the writer’s bug got him, and he has several books in the making related to his experience in criminal justice and history. But we kids are currently enjoying his newest work, coming in email installments, about the adventures of a globetrotting character born in the island of Lampedusa.

In the book The End of Big, Nicco Mele tells the story how his elderly father wrote a book by transcribing his letters from WW2 and publishing it as an ebook through the internet (with his kids help, of course). Besides being a fascinating read for the family, it turned out a way for the father to connect with a number of people who had similar stories and experiences, enriching his social life.

My dad taught me many of the important skills in life, from swimming to driving, from how to give IM injections to how to avoid getting drunk. He introduced me to chess, the love of philosophy, and in general the joys of intellectual pursuits. Over the years we have been close or far, depending on which corner of the globe I happened to reside. And communications have ebbed and flowed depending on the demands of life.

But as of today, I am enjoying this common interest in writing, and I do hope we will become blogging buddies in the near future. Looking forward it 🙂


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