Happy New Year! With the start of a new year often comes the opportunity to plan changes you want to change in the coming year. And while most people make resolutions related to their personal life, scientists should think about making career-focused resolutions as well, by reflecting on ways to improve their scientific practice, career management, and work-life integration. Scientists looking for tips on how to formulate these sorts of new year’s resolutions can get started with the ideas below.
- How reliable are your statistical analyses? In the new year, you could collaborate with a statistician or take a course or workshop on statistics in order to ensure that your results are analyzed properly and that you draw the appropriate conclusions from your data.
- Do you know where your data is stored? Think about ways that you and your lab can better organize your lab notebooks, electronic files, and inventory so that they are easily accessible when they need to be accessed for subsequent analyses and manuscript preparation. Try out free tools for help.
- Are your experiments properly controlled? Within an experiment, be sure that you have the proper positive and negative controls to be able to interpret your results. Between experiments, think about ways to ensure that protocols and reagent recipes are standardized.
- What are your career goals for the year? Whether you’re looking for a new position or planning to submit a grant or a manuscript, the beginning of the year is the perfect time to make a schedule of those deadlines and build in the amount of time you’ll need to achieve those goals.
- Is your mentoring effective? Brainstorm ways that you might better organize your schedule to build in face time with your mentees. At any career stage, it’s important that your expectations are made clear and that people working under you have the tools they need to be successful.
- Are you effectively managing your days? Think about your work habits – whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, try to arrange your responsibilities so that you are working on your most prioritized tasks during your most productive hours. And try to arrange things so that you have uninterrupted blocks of time to work on research or writing, when necessary.
- What are your hobbies? For both mental health and personal satisfaction, it’s important to have some interests outside of the lab. At the beginning of the year, make a list of things you like to do (whether or not you’ve found time to do them during the previous year), and then fit those into your regular routine this year.
- When is the last time you took a break? Think about what you need to recharge, and whether it’s a family vacation, weekend getaway, or spa day, book it now for some time later in the year. Once your calendar starts to fill up, taking time off may be the last thing on your mind and feel selfish – but it shouldn’t! You’ll be a better scientist when you are at your personal best.
Aliyah is a postdoc at the University of Virginia, where she studies cancer immunology. She is also an advocate for science communication. You can find her on Twitter @desabsurdites and on her blog at www.aliyahweinstein.com.