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Train of Thought...
July 2008 - Use-by-Dates

Keeping fresh can be a problem in any undertaking. Winter is here and I find the cold frosty (yes even in Perth we have had frosts threatening!) mornings don't help with the inspiration to leap out of bed in the morning. Even when the mind is willing, the joints no longer always follow suit.

A key to keeping fresh, I believe, is having variety. Performing the same process day in and day out is a sure fire way to hasten the development of boredom. With boredom comes a loss of critical insight and quality falls away all too easily. Sure, we all face tedium in our working week but we also need to set aside some time in the week where tedium can be dispelled. Time needs to be found to peruse the literature and review lab processes. Perhaps time should be found for a research project, whether applied or pure. The important thing is to hone your intellectual skills as a scientist.

Variety can come from learning a new skill, whether that be refining a process or developing a new one, learning to prepare presentations or perhaps writing a paper. Raise the profile of your lab through participation in local clinical meetings. Your clinicians will benefit, and so will you. Again the important thing is to stretch your boundaries a little, challenge paradigms and develop your skill base.

Networking is another valuable means of keeping the grey matter working. Don't underestimate the value in picking up the phone and chatting with someone from another laboratory. Even better, arrange to meet face to face over an early morning coffee. Such discussions may have a formal agenda or topic but informal meetings can be even more valuable. Ideas can be thrown around and solutions found or research projects can be seeded. This is a much more fruitful way of developing ideas and maintaining freshness than similar discussions at the big, or even Branch meetings. While meeting within your team on a one-to-one or small group basis is important, meeting informally with someone from outside your team is even more valuable. Call it mentoring if you will.

Seize opportunities to forge new relationships. These may well open new windows for you. Potential exists with work experience organisers, physiotherapists, clinical researchers in other areas and so on. I can promise you, there will be lots of challenges that will keep you on your toes and provide a higher profile for Respiratory Science in your environment. I have recently become involved in two research projects outside my usual realm of expertise and my critical faculties are being stretched, to say the least.

When it all becomes too hard what do you do? We have to continue providing a service and can't easily take a long weekend at short notice, as effective as that might be. You can, however, voice your frustrations to someone else - often someone from another team works better. A problem shared, is a problem lightened. You can also make plans to change something, to have a holiday - put a date on it! The important thing is to lift the safety valve.

A common theme running through these suggestions for staying fresh is pushing boundaries either through learning a new skill or honing an existing one. The regular injections of enthusiasm that result, will keep your use-by-date at bay.

'til next time,

K.

July, 2008

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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