Setting the scene:
You come into your office in the morning after working a 14 hour office day the day prior. Yes, you stayed past 5pm…again. That’s a lesson for another day. You want to start your day off strong, be productive, get ahead of your task list, and leave work with a smile on your face.
But all you see is a pile of random Post-It notes over your desks- cryptic notes to yourself about a student you need to email or a question you needed answered.
“Get green stickers”
Now, you may be asking yourself what any of these mean. I can tell you that these are actual sticky notes that are currently on my desk. Luckily I decoded them. But normally that may not be the case.
Student Affairs professionals are jacks of all trades. A career counselor is going to counsel a student on personal issues. An academic advisor is going to help a student prioritize their free time outside the classroom. A residence life professional is going to help with resumes and interview prep with an RA or student in their hall. So how do we stay organized when the “other duties as assigned” bullet of our respective job descriptions becomes a larger and larger component of our day to day work?
Simple, right? But systems break down. Mine certainly did. New positions, new environments, and new definitions of “status quo” can create an uncomfortable shift in needs for any SA pro. Does this office primarily use online scheduling? Do I have the ability to leave a to-do list out that may have privileged information on it? Who am I keeping on task? Is it just myself? Myself and my RAs? Do I have graduate students, front desk workers, etc? Is it all of above? Any or all of these scenarios are tackled every day. And no one organizational style will work for any of them.
For someone who is uncomfortable with clutter, disorganization, or a lack of a color coded to-do list, my current desk is putting productivity to a screeching halt.
I am self diagnosing myself with what I like to call “Post-It Note Paralysis”.
How can we do work if we don’t know which note to work on first? Impossible.
One of the best analogies I heard when trying to conceptualize how our brain handles multiple tasks at once was one I heard from psychology faculty member Christopher Hakala, formally at Western New England University.
He told us to imagine ourselves in a car while driving. The music is turned up. We’re singing. Laughing. And then we realize we missed a turn. We’re lost. He asked us what’s the first thing we would do.
Turn the music down.
Prioritize the stimuli. Clearly in the scenario with the car, we weren’t able to completely focus on the task at hand; which is both dangerous and unproductive.
Prioritize the stimuli. With a desk full of Post-It notes, how am I, or anyone else, supposed to get anything done? I need to prioritize, hit the pause button, and reset so I can start with a clear, organized mind. That starts with a streamlined process of organization.
So this morning, when I saw the post it notes covering my computer monitor and desk, I took my task list for my Office Assistant and gave it to her. One note off my desk. But then I realized that no job can be done well in this space.
Taking the time to clean and organize will be a better return on your time investment later.
What did I do? I grabbed the notebook I write notes in during meetings and turned a new page. And wrote all the post it note information in a list. The physical appearance of my desk was so much less anxiety inducing I felt like I could actually tackle the new list of tasks at hand.
That system may not work for everyone. But sometimes we all just need a refresh to get through our days. Even on a Friday morning.
Let me know how you stay organized! Tweet me @missdaniellelyn and @The_SA_Blog #SAchat to keep the conversation and tips going.