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Back to the Lab

1. Tidy up the lab

Now this seems like a strange place to start. You are in all likelihood returning to a lab which hasn’t been touched in 3 months so there is no reason to expect that things will be messy.

But like a moth to a flame you will find that the second you re-enter your lab you’ll feel compelled to awkwardly move things around and ‘tidy’ things into random locations.

Don’t worry too much where you move them to, again you’ve not worked in 3 months, you have no idea what you’re doing, but you will at least feel a strange sense of accomplishment from randomly moving some things around.

2. Leave the lab

Going straight to the lab is a rookie mistake. When returning from a long break it’s hard to remember what you should be doing and you’ll need some notes. These should be on your computer so head straight for your office and boot up your long neglected computer.

This will take a while as in your absence your machine will have downloaded precisely no updates and will inevitably take what feels like 3-4 months to download critical security patches to minesweeper.

Once it’s loaded up and after you’ve clicked through all the error messages that IT tells you are totally normal, you’ll finally remember that you didn’t make any notes. Past you was very confident you’d remember everything… past you was wrong, and lazy.

3. Turn everything on

A little known fact about scientific equipment is that unlike most mechanical equipment it breaks the most when it’s used the least. Having equipment sat totally unused for 3 months is going to result in a lot of error codes, strange BEEP noises and the smell of burning electronics.

Tentatively turning things on one at a time is a good way of quickly discovering these issues and then allowing you to properly frown in confusion. Having a perplexed confused face is a key part of research and it’s important to get back to that as quickly as possible.

If you don’t feel confused enough then try fixing the machines with their manuals, that should eliminate any remaining sense of confidence and understanding you have.

4. Take a break

Our last tip is by far the most important. If you’ve followed all of the above you’ll be frustrated and confused. This is no state to get any work done so you better go get a cup of coffee.

It’s been a long and busy first day back, take a good break and then head home early and try again with a fresh start tomorrow. There’s no point rushing these things.


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