Have you ever had a hard time staying focused in the office? With students pouring in and out, meetings back to back, and then planning multiple events, collecting information for assessment, and analyzing information, the life of a Student Affairs Professional can get very busy. Over the last year, I have successfully reorganized my life both professionally and personally and utilize the below techniques to accomplish tasks and set myself up for success. What are ways that you stay organized to promote individual success?
Use a Task List
Task lists help you stay organize and know the projects that need your immediate attention while knowing what you can put off in the long-run. I highly recommend a task list that does not “delete” the task after you complete it, but marks it as finished. At the end of the year, review your task list, identify the busy moments, and evaluate your performance. Why was this certain time period busy? Was there a better way to organize your work to spread out the work flow? I use a tasklist from my Smartsheet account, but you could also easily create something similar on excel.
Learn Something New
I set out two professional goals for the year 2015 with the hope of learning something new. The first is to master Microsoft Excel beyond its basic functions. I use Excel for a large portion of my work from as a database to track assessment, student interaction, attendance, and agendas to monitoring our office finances and developing reports. To continue my development, I’ve read books and watched way too many videos on how to have fun with pivot tables. Why do I want to master excel? First, I am nerd and oddly enjoy it, but secondly I want the ability to organize all the information I interact with on a daily basis and be able to quantify it. Big data is all the rage in the world and its making its way into student affairs through retention work, admissions data, and documenting student learning.
My second goal was to understand the theory behind marketing in order to increase participation in our programs and to develop a stronger communication piece from our office. I picked up a few books, implemented some new web tools like Canva to make flyers and infographs, and enrolled in a free marketing course on Coursera. Already these skills have paid off as I am leading an office wide communications initiative that has some a decent amount of external funding attached to it. This leads into my next point, develop skills that are in demand for our profession.
Become an Expert, Other’s Aren’t
Guess what? Other people in your office and division most likely are not learning something new. I know this because as people we get stuck in our patterns, our comfort zones, and sticking to things we already know and can already do well. Over the last two years I decided to try and become an expert in assessment work and though I have a long way to go, I am now leading office-wide assessment projects for four departments in our division and continue to grow knowledge in this area. Not only is this a huge piece of personal growth and professional development, but this is also marketable development if I decide to go on the job market in three to four years.
Start and End Your Day with Something you Love
Office life can be tough sometimes as we stare at our task list and then later drift off to Facebook, Reddit, or Amazon waiting for “motivation”. Start your day out with something you love, a reason to get to work and to do work right off the bat in the morning. For me, on Monday mornings I find all the content for my LinkedIn page, Twitter, and articles for our Facebook and schedule it for the entire week (thanks Hootsuite). I also start and finish my day with working on graphic design, reading books for professional development, email some encouragement to students I interact with a lot, and search for Higher Ed conferences in Hawaii. The point is to start and finish your day with something that allows you to express and connect your passion to your profession.
Finally, wake up to be up, not to get up. Start your day with something that builds purpose and creates order. Take 30 seconds and check out my SlideShare below how I build purpose for my entire day.