Erica McLennan works in the Division of Academic Success and Institutional Effectiveness as the interim Program Coordinator for the iFALCON Title V grant and as a staff member for the Developmental Education coordinator.
I have two jobs. Not like most people do though; I have two jobs in the same office. I work both for the Developmental Education coordinator and for the Title V grant. When I first took this position, I thought, “piece of cake, I can handle it,” but I began to realize how difficult it was to keep the positions separate. There are duties that can go together, like making copies of two different reports that have important but separate deadlines. There are important events and meetings for each job, and I have to treat them both with the same amount of energy and dedication.
The first few weeks I piled work on my desk, and every time something was needed, I would sort through the mess, wasting time and feeling very inadequate. I would try to find something on my computer but nothing was in folders; I would be so frustrated knowing I did the work, but couldn’t remember what I named it.
With one job, I felt I had the time to stop and file things, to name folders, sort through emails, and create orderly check lists, but not with two jobs. With two jobs the day goes so fast that, before I know it, I look up and it is time to go home (still with a pile of work on my desk to be finished). I had to do something and quick or I would not be able to keep up.
The first thing that had to change was how I filed things in my computer. I created folders for both jobs, and then within those folders I created more folders for the different things I was doing. I took the time to sit down and file each item so that I wouldn’t be wasting so much time later. It feels faster sometimes to save it anywhere and move on, but it actually wastes more time in the end. I devised a system of saving things so that I could easily retrieve them, a system that was recognizable to me (the person before me had a system, but it made sense to her, but not to me; everyone has their own way of being efficient).
After fixing my computer mess, I cleaned my desk. A clean desk isn’t necessarily a sign of an organized person (I know lots of friends with organized messes), but in cleaning I set up file folders and notebooks in a way that I would recognize them. I had my alphabetized items, my meeting minutes by date, and then I have that folder of “To Do” items that I hadn’t gotten to yet, but I absolutely need to do soon. This at least put the important things right in front of me so they don’t get lost and I wouldn’t have to apologize for being late with them.
The last thing I did was to have a separate To Do sheet for each job. I tried putting them together, but it gets confusing when you are setting up a meeting and can’t remember which person needed the meeting. By making two clear lists I know which boss to call and what department to put requests under. This also helped me cut down on how many times I had to call them to remember what to do.
I know that many of you have school and work; this is also two jobs. Sometimes it is difficult to prioritize, because one is important to your future, but the other is important to help you survive now. Each has its place, but without organizing the big things, you won’t be able to fit the little things in. Trying to organize might consist of using your iPhone to keep a “to do” list, or it might include a paper calendar; I can’t tell you what works best for you, but I do know that if you find a system that works (allowing you to work more efficiently and not constantly looking for lost work), follow through by keeping the system up.
I learned a lesson a while back that helps me keep things into perspective. I was given a Mason jar (one that is used in canning jam or jelly), 4 large stones, small stones , and a bag of sand (those things we handle every day that have to get done). I was told everything will fit in the jar, but if you don’t put them in the right order they will overflow. When you place the largest stones in first (those things with the highest priority) you ensure there is always room for them. Then you add the smaller stones (those things that are important but not high priority) because they take up more space than the sand. Then when it looks like nothing else will fit, you can add all the sand (the small tedious things you still have to do, but can fit them in anywhere). The sand fills in the cracks and crevasses, making your jar full.
If you spend your time worrying about the little things, the items that don’t have a lot of importance, you won’t leave enough time for the bigger things. It is like spending all your time deciding on a title for your paper without actually writing the 10 page paper. I know there will always be times where you need a break from having two jobs (or three if you have kids/family you help take care of), but if you organize your day so that you have time scheduled to be able to just sit for a minute, or to watch your favorite sit com, you won’t have to sacrifice homework do to so.
Organization doesn’t come naturally for most people; it takes discipline, but once you break down and do it, managing your schedule provides structure and allows you to be more efficient, reaching your goals with much more purpose than before.
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