Friday, 27 April 2012

How to organize like a rockstar

Ok, I may not be a rockstar in the traditional sense since I don’t play music, or even in the nerdly sense since I mostly study corals, which aren’t exactly rocks either…but, close enough. Some people (read: my husband) think that my organizational skills are lacking, but that’s just because they don’t understand the nuance of how amazing they actually are.

Here, I’ll share with you my most guarded secrets in organizational awesomeness.

1. A clean desk is a sign of laziness. If you can see the material the desk is made from, clearly the person working at that desk is not busy enough. My desk, on the other hand, is always covered with a nice smattering of books, papers, post-its, pens, empty coffee cups growing mold, etc. This also gives you an air of eccentricity, which is always a plus for a scientist (Einstein was too busy to comb his hair, and you should be too).

2. Piles are key in my book.
  a. There should be one non-critical pile. You should peruse this pile once every few weeks when you have an odd moment, and try to make it smaller by throwing things out that are no longer relevant (expired coupons and such), or at least rotate things into a different order.
  b. Make a pile of articles and/or books you are meaning to read. I find this more effective than putting them in an electronic “to read” folder, because it’s harder to let grow ad infinium. Thus you may actually read the articles.
  c.  One pile should be devoted to time-sensitive material. Don’t forget to look through this pile daily. Try not to put your coffee cup on that pile.
  d. Never put anything away unless you wish never to see it again. Bills stuck in a drawer are a guaranteed way to bring the collection agency to your door.

Photos are great ways to keep records...if you can remember their intended purpose.
3. Post-its are awesome. Stick notes related to things you must do on the wall or on the edge of your computer monitor. It feels awesome to crumple them up and recycle them when you’ve completed the task, and in the meantime, adds to your “I’m super busy” look.

4. The inside of your wrist is a more discrete and less-likely-to-be-washed-off spot for quick notes to yourself on-the-go. Sure, you could write yourself a note on your iPhone, but really: are you going to remember to look at said electronic notes?

5. The best place for addresses, phone numbers, directions, etc. is on a random scrap of paper hidden somewhere in your “critical” pile. Definitely do not bring those things with you when you are on your way somewhere. It’s way more fun to utilize your mom (see previous post) to help you figure out where the hell you are supposed to be going when you are halfway there.
Colors add fun to tedious lab work! (Boring people might use these to differentiate samples via color)

6. Name your computer files after your mood. Aren’t you going to remember what “aaarrrrgggh! these data are driving me insane” means more readily than “data to crossdate”? Sure you are! This makes using the “find” function way more awesome, too.

7. Name your specimens in as confusing a manner as possible. For instance, make sure to use letters that sound very similar to one another, so when referring to SS-4-E and XS-4-D, no one can understand you. This makes you sound smarter.


  1. Jess - but, but, but - your mother has NO piles. I bet her desk at work is spotless. I always wonder what she does with all the paper that must come from the crazy-busy life she leads. Cynthia?

    1. Oh you are SO right ... I don't even like to have ONE piece of paper on my desk. I keep everything filed away and organized. Some people think that's a disease. But I, of course, think it's the ONLY "proper" way to be ... out of sight means all taken care of ... so why are my daughter and son and husband such aliens?

  2. Oh man, Jess, this is EXACTLY my system!! Except for the creative and descriptive file naming... I'll need to start that one ASAP.
    I do think you missed a crucial step in the piling system, though, which is when your piles get too high, then you can just move them to a new spot - it's not gone forever like filing, but they don't risk falling over as much...