|Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile|
Teaching at the college level requires me to shift gears three times each academic year (not counting into and out of breaks). By the time I get into a comfortable routine for the first semester, it's time to prepare for the second semester -- which may or may not include the same classes I just finished teaching. It's fun, actually, but it requires more of an adjustment than I expected. Sometimes, the whole rhythm changes from one semester to the next. And when a semester starts off bumpy, like this one has (due to snow), finding that rhythm can prove a bit tricky.
With a little experience, and a lot of trial and error, I've come up with a few things to make the transition easier.
- Assess the route and the equipment at your disposal. In the past year, I've gone from two classes to three classes and back to just one for this spring. My existing organizational systems, which easily expanded to accommodate one additional class, groaned under the weight of the third. Consequently, I spent a lot of time over break sorting, purging and reorganizing, which included keeping some of my systems and containers, repurposing others and getting rid of the rest. If it's not working, it's not worth keeping. If it is working, use, re-use and re-purpose as appropriate.
- Be true to your styles. Stick with what works and venture onto a new trail only when the old one isn't working for you anymore. One look at my home office (and the surrounding territory) last December made it clear what was working and what needed to change. My I need to see it style had created quite a mountain, and even once it was sorted and thinned, a lot of things needed homes. That gave me the opportunity to choose tools and systems that work for me. No binders, no file cabinets, but plenty of labels, clear/unique or color-coded containers and bins.
- Go cheap -- and then adapt. Storage solutions don't have to be expensive. Some of my favorite containers are straight from the dollar store and the bargain bins at Target. In fact, one system I repurposed was simple -- matching heavy duty gift boxes that I pressed into service for papers. I originally bought them half price after Christmas, along with an inexpensive particleboard unit that also went on sale in January (prime sale time for organization items). They're pretty, a little larger than the papers that go inside (to eliminate stuffing, crumpling, cramming and jamming) and all the same shape and size, so they stack easily. Originally, they held chapters for a book I'm now revising. As I empty the boxes, I'm using them to store materials for one of my three classes, unit by unit, so everything is at my fingertips and less likely to get scattered.
My office is almost where I want it -- just a bit more sorting, purging and filing to make things complete. By the end of the semester, it had gotten so overstuffed that I avoided working there and instead moved my laptop to other parts of the house. After all of my effort, I'm back to enjoying working in my own little space.
What a difference finding the right rhythm -- and tools -- makes.