When I started my job at the Center for Social Value Creation at the University of Maryland I was filled with ideas about how to do things differently. But when I started in September, the fall semester was well underway and I jumped right into projects, learning as I went. All of my ideas quickly became less of a priority than the day-to-day.
I knew there were ways to do my job better. But with 40 hours a week of executing on events, communications, and administrative tasks, there was no time at work to hone new skills or create any new processes. Knowing I wasn’t doing things as well as I could drove me nuts!
I became so frustrated that I tried picking up development assignments in addition to my day-to-day anyways. I started working late and working weekends just to get some development work done. This worked for a couple weeks, but ultimately wasn’t sustainable. I became exhausted with work and had no time to do anything else.
So with a couple half-baked development projects and a fatigued mind, I finally approached my boss about it. Luckily, she had a solution. We decided to keep a running tab of potential development projects during the semester, and then when students left in December, I would choose a couple to focus on. Not only did this cut my workload back down to a manageable size, but it reinvigorated me knowing I’d have set time to develop myself later.
When the semester ended, I switched gears and have spent the last few weeks on one of the big development projects I identified. I’ve taken one of my major work streams back to a very strategic level, making sure my tasks are intentionally aligned with my overall objectives. Time to think more strategically has also given me time to reflect on how my work fits in with my colleagues. There is expertise and opportunity around me that I’d never realized until I had some time to sit down and think about it.
As my development period wraps up and I begin to transition to get ready for the spring semester, I feel refreshed and excited about the new tools and processes I’ve developed for myself. Everything isn’t perfect, but I feel like my day-to-day is more strongly aligned with the mission and major objectives of my job.
There are times for getting things done and there are times for reflecting and changing things. What’s key for me is having that structure planned out in my mind. It’s a motivating and refreshing change of pace.
If you don’t have neatly paced lulls at work like I do, be sure to build them for yourself. If you’re not taking time to develop professionally, you’re not preparing yourself for that eventual next. These last few weeks at work have given me vision and direction. I’m building toward them.