When I think about how to manage my time better, I remember the intense sense of embarrassment I felt during a conversation with a faculty member when I was a first-year chemistry graduate student. I had run into the professor after leaving my lab at about six o'clock on a warm California evening. We began to chat about an experiment I was doing, and I told him that I was planning to start a certain reaction the next morning.

In a slightly caustic tone, the professor pointed out to me that if I had stayed just 15 minutes longer to start the reaction that same day, it could have been refluxing all night. By the time I came in the next morning, it would have been ready for the next step, and I would have been 12 hours ahead in my work. He was right, of course. I was not...

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