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1/20/2017 Discoverthe7HabitsofProductiveScientists|ACSAxial:YourBondWithChemistryResearch

Discover the 7 Habits of Productive


Scientists
By Chi Wang

FACEBOOK

submit Do you often nd yourself busy but not very productive? Do you struggle
with deadlines or fumble your way through projects? Maybe you have a lot of great ideas but
dont have time to execute them. If thats the case, maybe you need to adopt some of the
productivity secrets of ACS Publications Editors-in-Chief. George Schatz, Editor-in-Chief of The
Journal of Physical Chemistry and Vince M. Rotello, Editor-in-Chief of Bioconjugate Chemistry,
recently shared their tips for staying on task and getting great things done in the lab. Read on to
discover their insights:

Break Projects Into Manageable Tasks

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It is a crucial skill for researchers to work systematically to ensure they make progress on a
regular basis for research projects, says Schatz. He suggests students start each day listing out
the tasks they need to accomplish. Even though this might sound simple, it is a critical step
toward completing an ambitious project. A productive researcher must possess the skills to
identify and prioritize important tasks within a project, as well as the discipline to meet the daily
goals they set.

Set to Priorities to Avoid Distractions

Once a reasonable goal is set, Schatz says, one ought not to get distracted by extraneous
things.

You only have 24 hours a day, so staying on-task is critical. Distraction is everywhere and takes
many forms. The rst step to avoiding distraction is being able to prioritize tasks. List out
everything that requires your attention and ask yourself if each task on the list ts with your
research goal. If you can only tackle so many issues in a day, you need to take care of the most
important tasks rst.

Be Realistic About Your Commitments

Rotello tells his students not to over-commit themselves to tasks they dont have the time to
accomplish. I often see people take on more tasks than they can handle, in which case
sometimes even a good idea can end up becoming a burden and yield no results, Rotello says.

Developing a process for deciding which tasks to take on can require a little bit of trial and error.
Rotello stresses the importance of looking critically at your own work and being honest about
what youre able to accomplish. After all, if youre not getting all your most important work done,
you might be a ecting others productivity as well.

If you keep nding yourself being the rate limiting step, he says, change the pathway.

Own Your Work

Rotello urges young researchers to take ownership of their projects. Researchers should be like
homeowners and not renters, he says. An owner of a house is proactive and tries to plan ahead
to keep the house in shape within a reasonable budget; whereas a renter is passive and waits for
others to x problems, he says. Similarly, a good researcher should be proactive in their planning
and willing to tackle problems as they happen.

It is critical for scientists to see a research project as a whole, Rotello advises, and to carefully
plan each piece that needs to be done. Taking the control experiment in a research project as

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an example, Rotello says a good researcher would spend their time meticulously designing the
experiment to ensure it produces useful data from which the team can learn.

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But a researcher must also learn how to set a realistic timeline for his or her project.

Things always come up, Rotello says, even though your calendar looks empty now, it may be
full with unexpected tasks very soon. Its a good idea to leave extra time for each task, in case
you run into complications.

Accept Setbacks Graciously

Students need to prepare for the possibility of failure and be ready to approach it in a productive
way, according to Schatz.

Failure is inherent in the nature of scienti c research, so it does happen; Schatz says, therefore,
it is important to talk about things with colleagues and with ones adviser when this happens,
and ultimately to come up with a way to decide when the time has come to quit and move to
other projects.

Know When to Move On

Both editors stressed the importance of knowing when to cut your losses and nd a new project.

Some students get emotionally attached to a project and dont know when to quit, Schatz says.
He suggests giving a project a reasonable deadline for generating results and then moving on if
the project doesnt measure up.

If you have to quit a project, try not to become discouraged. Rotello points out that we can all
learn something valuable from our failures and eventually build on that knowledge to nd
success.

Learn about services and resources for authors from ACS Publications.


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