Maintaining your personal infrastructure

Recently, Christine announced her return to the lab after her internship. She wrote that she found she had a more positive attitude toward completing her graduate research after her much-needed break. I find that I’m similarly energized by my own return to the lab, although my circumstances are quite different. Since my current employer is just getting off the ground, there have been some long days, which haven’t left a great deal of time for much else. But it’s well worth it. The setting for my new position is quite different than my former one within a large chemistry group in Big Pharma. Gone is some of the infrastructure to support the day-to-day functioning of the lab from which I had the luxury of benefiting in my last role. Walk down to a supply room down the hall to get a box of gloves or pipettes? Nope. Place a call to laboratory services to have such-and-such piece of equipment sent out for maintenance? Not so much. Enjoy a leisurely brunch on the deck of my yacht? Not likely. Oh, wait—that never happened. Those of us in this much smaller group will serve as a significant portion of our infrastructure (once our current arrangement of sharing lab space is complete), along with our other duties. Having more to do is also a welcome change after more than four months of unemployment. I bring up the notion of infrastructure, as it has been fairly topical in recent years. In a broader context, it refers to the services, structures, and organizations necessary to support a society. You know, the kind of things one takes for granted every day. Much of the discussion regarding the infrastructure here in the U.S. has the word “crumbling” appearing with unfortunate frequency, particularly with the current condition of the economy. Although the topic in this context is very important, I believe each of us has our own personal infrastructure. Sure, there are the gadgets and conveniences that help us live our lives. I’m more interested in the part that is internal rather than external.

Don’t let this happen to you, within or without.

It’s what keeps us anchored and helps us weather whatever storms come our way....and there will be storms, often without any warning. It’s a good idea to prepare yourself and build up your infrastructure. But how? Just about anything you do (assuming it’s not to someone else’s detriment) that helps you grow as person and feel positive about yourself can qualify. There are a few somewhat random things, though, that helped me get through my own stormy period, and continue to help me as I continue to acclimate into my new position. One component is remaining calm if you can help it. Having a hair trigger on your panic button is not terribly conducive to rational thought. The broader your foundation, the more stable it’s likely to be. You can increase the breadth of your foundation by adding to your transferable skillset. I should note that, although you are responsible for much of your personal infrastructure, I’m not suggesting some sort of you-versus-everyone-else rugged individualism. Far from it. I mention that because an essential component is your network, or, as it used to be called, your friends and colleagues. Remember them? And, please, you don’t always have to be “working” your network. Just get together with people and listen. And, much like our society’s various infrastructures, yours requires maintenance. Keeping it sound and stable can strengthen your ability to focus and be productive So, keep busy. Go for a walk. Read something. Organize your stuff. Do volunteer work. Write short imperative sentences. Hide Easter eggs. So, what do you think? What’s the most important component of your personal infrastructure, and how do you keep it from falling apart?

Author: Glen Ernst

Chemistry and pharma researcher and manager. Lifelong passion for science, the arts and language. Blogger for CENtral Science, also blogging as The Scientist Next Door. LinkedIn:

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  1. Very insightful thoughts that remind us of the fact that even as “transition happens” we have continuities personally and professionally that do sustain us. In the earliest weeks and months of a new position /organization, I recall ( in retrospect) how important it was to recreate the personal/ professional infrastructure that assists me in being my best in a new community of work.

  2. Maintaining Your personal infrastructure is one of the most important things that everybody should do. A nice thing to do everyday is to switch off your phone or leave Your phone and everything else in the other room and have some time just with yourself 🙂 The same thing works really well if you need to get something done- just leave everything else and take your task and yourself without any disruptions.. Mobile phone is one thing that you cant live without but which disrupts you just so much.