PA Confidential #4
Dear PA Confidential: How do you keep your job fresh? I feel like I’ve been doing this job forever! I really like my work, but after so many academic years, it feels stale.
I understand. The academy has a rhythm to it that can be soothing and certainly helps us plan, but it can also lull us into a routine that, as you say, can feel stale.
The trick is to turn things upside down when possible. If there is, for example, an event that you have been planning every year for too-many years, try and get a fresh perspective. Convene an advisory group and ask their opinions and solicit their suggestions. Reach out to people who have attended the event and ask them for candid feedback.
Sometimes we are tied to traditions that no longer work, let go of those. And, by the way, the argument of “but that is the way we have always done it” is not a good one. You can – and should – keep the traditions that really – seriously – mean something but give the rest a new twist. You have to be open, and sometimes brave, to make changes but once you do you are often rewarded with comments like “it’s about time!”
With your daily work, that too can be turned upside down. We recently renovated our cabinet meetings. I say renovated because we really stripped the meeting down to the bare bones and then thought about what makes sense to add back in. This took time and effort, and we sometimes slip back into our old ways. But, meeting by meeting we are being more strategic and discussing things we should be discussing, not just want people wanted to discuss.
Even a simple office makeover can help. Take down everything off your walls and bulletin boards. Then, live with it for a week or so. Next, bring in new pictures if you are inclined to have family and friends’ pictures in your office. Replace the artwork. Don’t put back up that phone number list that only has two good numbers left on it!
Do the same with your shelves. Do you really need to keep the academic catalog from 2002 when the library has a copy in the archives on the very off chance you will need to reference it?
Change up your routine a bit. Examine each standing meeting. Is it necessary? Could you meet less often? Can you keep one day a week meeting free so you can tackle the projects that need your complete attention?
Finally, examine your job description. Are these tasks that others can or should be doing? Are there challenges you want to take on but have been afraid to ask for? Ask! “No” is the worst that can happen.
I applaud you for recognizing that you need a refresh. It won’t be easy but you can do it.