Lab Organization: Digital Solutions Can Help You Declutter Data and Workspace

Digital Solutions, ELN

lab organization
Lab organization can be what makes or breaks laboratory workflow. Lab managers must implement effective solutions to keep productivity alive.
Image source: Flickr user PlaxcoLab

I have never been an organized person – not in my personal life and not in my work life. But as I’ve spent more time in disorganized environments, I have learned how critical organization can be to productivity and efficiency. On Monday mornings when I walk into my lab, the layout of my bench and desk sets the pace for the week. If I come in to unfinished, poorly documented experiments, I lose motivation for my next set of experiments. If I try to setup a new experiment, but am repeatedly sidelined because of poor chemical inventory management, eventually I just give up and put off the experiment for another day. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to resolution, right? But what’s next?

Fortunately, organization experts have characterized disorganization pretty well and have identified practices that really impede good organization. These traits readily apply to lab organization as well. Take a look at these organization steps that can help you achieve lab organization and boost productivity.

Determine the cause of poor recordkeeping

Why do lab members get so behind with their lab notebooks? For some, it might be the tediousness of writing out experimental protocols or templates. For others, it might be that their hand gets tired of writing for an hour after pipetting all day. For me, it was both. I know it sounds a little lame, but I hated writing out pages of protocols that were basically copies of previous experiments. It made my hand hurt in an era where we just don’t write enough to hurt our hands in any other facet of life. Another common cause of poor record keeping is not knowing how to manage the tremendous amount of data that scientists are collecting. When my boss was starting out, he’d be lucky to get a single northern blot completed in a week. These days, it’s not unusual for me to have 200 data points from three different assays in a single day. But at the end of that day, it can be exhausting to think about sitting down and compiling and organizing all that data in a paper notebook.

An electronic laboratory notebook (ELN), on the other hand, addresses these common causes of poor record keeping. By streamlining recordkeeping with productivity features like protocol cloning and shared templates, users will save time and energy in the record keeping process. Multiple file types can also be inserted into a notebook entry so that all data is linked to a date and project. And perhaps the best feature – the ability to type directly into the notebook and save your hand from writer’s cramp!

Have a place for every item

A highly organized friend of mine once told me that the key to organization is having a designated place for everything. That way, at the end of the day, you aren’t just stacking things in a pile or shoving them to the corner to clear off space. This is especially true for lab organization. From chemicals to biological materials, labs often have a hard time organizing items and containers. Cycle through a few employees and the hope of locating items becomes increasingly difficult. The reagents and samples that labs use are extremely valuable and often irreplaceable, so investing in a digital system that tracks every container in your lab can be a lifesaver. A digital chemical inventory management system can track any container with its real-time location, volumes and any other information that’s important. By implementing a digital chemical inventory management system, all lab members will know how and where to store containers. That way you can clean off your lab benches and create a place for every item.

Lab organization doesn’t just happen. It requires that managers determine the underlying causes of poor organization and implement effective solutions. Visit our website to learn how digital lab solutions like BIOVIA Notebook and BIOVIA CISPro can help your lab become organized and declutter both data and workspace.

 

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