Monday, April 5, 2010

Managing your workload

Amy's post on banquet season brought up something I have been thinking about for a while: managing the ASP workload. This is the season for all sorts of extra activities. It is wonderful to attend these for yourself and for your students. It's great when they get to see you as a real person, not just an ASPer.

For many of us, ASP is a labor of love.  When we do something not for the paycheck, but because we feel it needs to be done, we can forget what our needs are, as an individual.  We need to remember that just because it needs to be done, we don't necessarily have to be the one to do it. We help no one in the long term when we get burnt out or chronically sick because we have spread ourselves too thin (my personal aside: this coming from someone who is just making it back to work after nearly two weeks out sick, including a day in the hospital). 

Choose the activities that will give you the most bang for your buck; where will you see the most students? Choose to attend activities where you can multi-task in a productive way: get credit for faculty attendance (required at some schools) and socialize with students.  Think about your administrative tasks: do you need to do them, or can you get a student worker to help? Can you create joint programs, such as etiquette and professionalism dinners co-sponsored by Career Services? Think about asking for help or ideas from other ASPer's. You don't need to re-invent the wheel for every program; it's okay to contact an ASPer you trust and tweak their program or PowerPoint to meet the needs of your students. 

I think what is more challenging is setting limits on ourselves when designing programs we want to do, not the programs we need to do. Many of us see the same problems year after year. We know how to create programs that can alleviate the issue before it arises. It can be frustrating to know how to solve or alleviate a problem and not have the human resources to devote to the solution.  It's helpful, at the start of the school year, or the semester, to wish-list your own programs, and rank-order which ones you think will be the most important. You may need to cut a program or two not because they are ineffective, but because you are only one person. You shouldn't expect that you, on your own, can solve the problems of several hundred students.

I had a list of goals I developed for my 6-month review in December. By February, I realized that the goals need to be reviewed and re-organized. In the end, I had to cut a study program for college seniors because it would have spread me too thin, and would have fallen short of my expectations for the program because I would not have been able to devote enough time to it. Instead, I was able to devote more time and resources to the Pre-Law Prep Camp at UConn (think pre-orientation, but open to all seniors and alumni going to any law school, offered during the spring before law school commences). Did it hurt to cut the study program? Absolutely. If I could have given it 100%, or even 80% effort, I think it could have been a success. But looking at my schedule, I was already working 6 days a week (Pre-Law Prep Camp is Saturdays from 9-12), and spending at least 2 nights a week working until at least 9 on special enrichment programs for students. As much as I love discussing New York Times articles with students over dinner or going with them to see performances by the Connecticut Repertory Theater, it's exhausting. The study program would have received less than 50% of the effort it needed to be a success. In the long term, it would have turned students off to the idea because it would not have been well done. Instead, I am keeping the idea in my goal list, but I will implement it when I can do it right.  (RCF)

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