I don’t know about you, but I sit amongst a melee of post-docs, technicians, academic support staff and, (of course!), other grad-students. This “open-plan” style of seating is great when you want to bounce ideas off a colleague or just need a second pair of eyes to glance over your data. On the flipside though, it can be a noisy and distracting place, where you feel your personal productivity plummeting.
Now, this wouldn’t really affect you if you’re constantly doing wet lab or clinical work and are away from your desk for long spells. But it can affect you if you’re doing a lot of “desk-time” while working on data analysis or writing.
1. Headphones are great, especially the noise-cancelling ones. Try listening to some music while you work, though studies on its effect on productivity have shown mixed results. If you can’t focus with music on, try one of the white noise playlists available on Pandora or Spotify.
2. Try working around particularly noisy periods during the day. Schedule in time for big chunks of writing or data analysis either earlier in the day or later in the evening, when there are fewer people around. Alternatively, talk to your supervisor about working from home on some days.
3. Good communication is key! Allow yourself to be accessible, but let people know that you aren’t available to help them all the time. Adopt clearly understood signals for when you’re busy and don’t want to be disturbed.
4. If your work has been interrupted and you can’t re-focus, allow yourself some time to decompress. Stand up, walk around or grab a cup of coffee. It is the perfect space to ease you back into thinking about your work again, so that you can start fresh when you’re back at your desk.
5. Finally, if the space you occupy at work isn’t working for you, try and talk to your lab manager or supervisor about it. If there is space available, they might be able to move you somewhere else. You won’t know unless you ask!
Remember to be considerate toward others too! If you’re having a conversation, try and keep the volume and duration to a minimum when there are people working around you…or just take it outside. Check that the person whose help you need is free to help you or schedule in another time that would suit both of you. Finally, remember your manners and treat others the way you’d like to be treated!
Have you got anymore tips to add?
Lakshini Mendis is a PhD student at the Center for Brain Research at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Her project is focused on understanding the changes that occur in Alzheimer's disease. Lakshini is passionate about good science communication, and believes that it is the key to increasing scientific literacy in the community. She wants to help change the stereotype of females in science, and that’s why she signed up as the Lifestyles section editor at the Scientista Foundation. She also writes for HDBuzz. When she's not working, you can usually find Lakshini curled up with a good book, spending time with family and friends, or exploring somewhere new! Twitter handle: @MissMendis