Monday, June 21, 2010

Organizing My Life

I just completed my fourth day on the job, so there's lots to fill y'all in on. I'll start from the beginning...

I got into Philly (no one here says the full name-- takes too long) on Thursday night at 7:30 pm, but because of miscommunications, etc, I didn't get on the airport transportation van to take me to Temple University (where the Institute is located) until 8:30 pm. So it felt like quite a late night to be getting in.

But despite the hour, the van driver was really nice, and after we dropped off the last fellow passenger and headed to the university, he went above and beyond his call of duty to explain everything about Philly to me, including what I had to see while I was here, the authentic places to eat a real Philly cheesesteak, and where to not walk after dark alone. All super helpful stuff. And once at the dorms, he refused to drive away and leave me there until we were sure I was in the right spot (which I really appreciated).

Once inside, I checked in (one of the very last OCs to arrive) and then headed up to my room. My very own room!

Out of the nineteen Operations Coordinators (OCs) working there this summer, only four or so of us get our own rooms. The rest have roommates (and share a living space with another room of two). At first I was disappointed to be all alone, figuring that I'd feel rather left out and lonesome at the end of the hall, but then I realized that there are countless benefits to having my own room. Sure, it forces me to not hole myself up in here and go be social in order to make good friends, but it also lets me escape from everyone after a long day of work. And since all of us do practically everything together (especially in these first couple weeks), I will have plenty of time over the course of the program to get to know everyone veeeery well. Probably too well.

But this is such a great group of people, and I am really excited that I get to work with so many driven, talented people for a month and a half. Maybe some of their awesomeness will rub off on me. For example, in comparison to these guys, I actually feel quite disorganized. I used to pride myself on my organization and my friend Madison thinks I'm the most organized person in the world. But I'm nothing in comparison to Teach For America staff members. These guys are intense. I love it.

We have these things called Daily Action Plans, which is basically an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper completely covered with both a day planner on the left (dividing the day into little pieces, down to the half hour) and an elaborate set of boxes on the right (for various To Do lists). All this on one page.

We are given a template to go off of and then encouraged to rename boxes and reformat as much as necessary to make the action plan our own. To give you an idea of what my typical daily action plan looks like, my boxes (for To Do lists) have such titles as: High Priority Tasks, Priority Tasks, Two Minute Tasks, Personal, For ____ (left blank for someone's name), For Molly (my manager), For OCs (my fellow team members), Inspiration (a tiny box for doodles, quotes and whatever else inspires me), and Notes (for random things that can't be categorized).

So efficient and so organized. Every single thing that I have to accomplish in one day is broken down into numerous lists to make things easier. They also stress that whatever I put on my plan is an action-able item (specific and concise), one that avoids lofty or vague language. For example, I can't put down something like "Set up the Resource Room." It needs to be something more specific like "Move all boxes to appropriate carrels," "Unpack boxes," and then "Organize books." Or something like that. The more specific the better.

And it makes sense. Like they said when they were explaining the action plan process to us, the reason projects don't get done is not because of a lack of time available but because of a lack of clarity on what specifically needs to get done, and in what specific order, for things to get accomplished.

Again, love it. I feel like I've come home. These people are my kind of people.

Side Note/Fun Fact: A fellow OC told me today that psychological studies have shown that if a person is dealing with a confusing or complex issue in their life, they are supposed to stop worrying, etc, and organize their bedroom or something like that. I guess the physical act of organizing a space helps trigger in the brain whatever is needed to categorize and organize the larger life problem they are dealing with. Sounds good to me!

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