Managing Workflow

By Susanna Miller, Campus Director

As the new Campus Director in Orlando, I’m finding that one of my challenges is just managing my workflow. There’s all of my own work of course – recruiting applicants, doing interviews, meeting with hiring partners, and handling the day-to-day things that come up at the campus (“So you need to get the mailboxes rekeyed to that you can access your mail. As of today.” Awesome? I guess I’ll do that right now?).

And then there are the pop-ups: email, HipChat messages (basically how we communicate as a company), and social media, with which I am still coming to terms (y’all, Twitter and I are in a slightly rocky relationship right now). But after about a month on the job, here are a few things I’ve learned.

My super efficient workspace. Such organization.

#1 Have a system to handle emails

Eric Schmidt has some great thoughts about handling email effectively (here). A lot of my contact with applicants is through email exclusively, until their interviews, so the impression of myself and The Iron Yard that I give is critical (in timeliness as well as word-smithing), but so is keeping track of the correspondence. I like my inbox to stay as slim as possible, so I have a system for sorting all of my emails as soon as I finish with them. And once a week I set aside to go through and clear out all of the ones I missed. That works for me – it may not help you, but at least think through a system that will help you.

#2 Be flexible

I suppose there are companies where this is less of an issue, but in most jobs, and especially in mine, things change fast. Sometimes I come in, thinking I know exactly what I need to so with my day, and with a lovely plan in place, and then a crisis arises (like the aforementioned mailbox key situation), and that’s where I end up spending my day. Or it may not be a crisis – last week I planned to get in some extra work on our new Ruby on Rails course (more on that here), but our ping-pong table was delivered unexpectedly! And yes, that happened. So instead I spent an hour working on getting that put together, with help from a couple students. Being flexible when your day doesn’t turn out the way you expected – and when does it? – will save you A LOT of stress.

#3 Prioritize

I have a couple of To Do lists on Trello, as well as some more general “don’t forget this needs to happen at some point” lists. But every morning I take a few minutes to look at my massive list of To Do’s, and then take a look at my calendar, and I figure out what the top 3-5 (or sometimes 1-2) things are that I MUST get done today. And then I focus on those. And if I everything miraculously goes as planned, and I get more done, great! Go me! But more likely, 12 new things come up during the course of the day, and I work in the stuff I actually planned in the little breaks in between. I do the MUSTs first, and fit in the other stuff where I can. So at the end of the day, the most urgent stuff is finished. And if it wasn’t on that list, it could wait until tomorrow anyway.

#4 Know when to stop

At a certain point, you just have to stop working. There are always more things I could work on: draft more blog posts! Find great articles to post on Twitter! Organize my desk! Reach out to Sue/Joe/Larry about X/Y/Z! But it’s equally important to have quiet time, time to plan, or think about the big picture, time to take stock of where the Orlando campus is right now, and where it can go. And it’s also critical to have time to do things that aren’t work related: take time off. Spend time with family and friends. Work on a separate project that you’re super excited about (personally, I cook, refinish furniture, and try out DIY projects I find on Pinterest). No matter how much you love your job, and I hope you do, you need time to refresh. 

There are quite a few other things I could add to this list. But when it comes down to it, these are four of the ideas I’ve found most helpful in making sure I’m being as effective with my time as possible, and keeping my personal stress level low. Let me know if there are others that work for you!

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The Iron Yard exists to create exceptional growth and mentorship for people, their companies and their ideas through code education and startup accelerators.