Dear Incurably Busy Research Administrator,

Has chaos taken over your life and built an iron throne of swords in your office? How would you define yourself? Are you productive, producing readily or abundantly? Are you busy, but actively and attentively engaged? Or, are you overloaded and overburdened with obstructive or superfluous tasks. Understanding, realistically, how ‘busy’ you are is sometimes the hardest part of managing your schedule. 

How would you describe yourself: 

  1. I am productive, producing readily or abundantly.
  2. I am busy, actively and attentively engaged.
  3. I am overloaded, overburdened with superfluous tasks.

I know you have good practices. I know you have good intentions. I know you have standard processes. I know you have a calendar. And, I also know, that even though chaos reigns from her iron chair, things are curiously still getting done. Honestly, that’s part of the problem (the “things are still getting done” part). When you’re busy and rushed, good practice, good intentions, and standard processes go out the window and the end product suffers. Take some time to really look at your workflow and identify some areas where you can save time and boost quality.

When you’re busy and rushed, good practice, good intentions, and standard processes go out the window and the end product suffers. 

Here are some quick and dirty tricks to saving time without costing on quality:

  1. Answer every email, but only check emails twice a day. Answer every email when you read it, even if it’s just “I’ll check on that” or “Thanks for that.” But here’s the catch–only check your emails twice a day. Don’t let your inbox clutter, distract, and overburden your day. 
  2. Seriously, librarians have superpowers. Never, I repeat, NEVER, underestimate the power of a good literature review. Librarians will help you design a search strategy and refine keywords, and even dump hundreds of articles in your lap. Use them. They are free and they are itching to help you solve a problem.
  3. Learn the Science, as quickly as you can. The Khan Academy does great work explaining science in bite-sized chunks. Sometimes the shortest route to solving a problem for your PIs is to get your hands a little dirty with the science. Get to know your people and their science–I promise it is worth the time.

Here are some other Quick and Dirty Tricks for the Terminally Busy Researcher from my friends at The Research Whisperer.