This fall quarter has gone by in a flash. Experiencing my first upper division class load was initially mind boggling. Last year it was fairly manageable to put in a lot of hours in the lab outside of my class schedule. I was taking sixteen units last quarter and this quarter I took sixteen units as well however the distances between lower and upper division classes seemed to be worlds apart for me. At the beginning of the quarter when the work load was already piled high I had the amazing opportunity to attend the SACNAS conference, which meant that I would have to finish double homework assignments in advance for physical chemistry and do a make-up lab for biochemistry. So initially I was flustered with lab write-ups and homework assignments and my flustered state basically continued to nearly the end of the quarter when I finally figured out how I could balance my schedule and allot more of my time to research. Although I wish I could have reached this conclusion before because it would have definitely minimized my stress levels, I am glad that I can jump into the new year with a new strategy on time management. The turning point in my quarter happened when I purchased a daily planner. This little UCSB standard planner helped me visualize my weeks in advance so that I could plan out what needed to be done instead of reaching the day before a lab report is due and then realizing “OH NO!”, I also have p. chem homework due the next day! And I was able to have stress-free fun in my dwindling spare time because I knew when everything had to be done and I could relax without worrying that I had forgotten about an assignment. All in all I recommend that everyone gets a planner if you sometimes struggle with procrastination or time management like myself.
Although I just went on about my time management strategies of the quarter which seems to have nothing to do with my research work, I actually believe that there are parts of your life-style that can have a great impact on your research work. I learned this quarter that managing your time can play a big role in your effectiveness as a researcher. It was difficult for me to understand this before because my class schedule allowed a substantial amount of extra time that I could spend in the lab working on my research project. However this past quarter my class and life schedule were more hectic and it cut into the time I could spend doing research, and in some cases I was rushed and didn’t fully document all of my experiments in an organized fashion. Hence at the end of the quarter I had to go back through my notebook and the pile of papers I had printed out and figure out what electrophoresis gels went with what experiment spreadsheets and what assembly protocols I had used for each experiment. I managed to link everything together, yet it took a good deal of time, something that could have been avoided if I had simply organized my experiments in my lab notebook as I went along through the quarter. Now that I have made these mistakes and worked out the kinks in my time management strategies, I am excited to enter the new year with the ability to work more efficiently on my research project especially since I designed a plethora of new RNA molecules that I will start working with next quarter.