As it may be evident from my lack of sharing over the last few months, I’ve been a bit busy – I recently started a new position in a small museum in New York City. I am regularly challenged and excited at the prospect of realizing new ideas and programs for my small but fierce institution. With this, there’s been a rather natural transition from considering museums and museum practices on a world stage to focusing on programs and practices at my place of work.
I came across this excerpt for a post in my draft box. It’s from a couple of years ago (ouch). I think at the time I was being optimistically diplomatic in trying to share about my experience while in the thick of it.
While I had the best of intentions to continue writing once I began my (then) new position, I don’t think I fully realized how amazingly challenging it is to be in a leadership role at a small non-profit. At Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum I was only one of two-full time employees (my position was actually part-time when I started). We sustained programs and implemented new initiatives with the help and support of part-time staff, volunteers, and members. Early on I tried to cut myself some slack. As with any new position it takes time to adjust and find a balance in the workplace.
Here are a few things I learned about working in a small-office setting and striking a balance between different projects and responsibilities. Some of these things may seem obvious and I’m sure all can be applied to any work environment.
- Make lists: It may sound silly and you may already do it, but making lists really help. I don’t know about you but I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I check something off my “to do” list. I also feel organized just making a list of things I need to get done (either for the week, the day, or even the hour)! I’m not the first person to note this either (and if you really want to read up on this topic check this out).
- Mini-jobs on the job: Those of you who wear many “hats” in your workplace know what it’s like to juggle different projects, meet with plenty of people, and try to get it all done (right) and in a timely way. In my own experience it wasn’t too long before I realized I was often getting pulled in a few different directions on a daily basis. It was easy to start one project and get side-tracked. Organizing your workday and in some cases work week to adequately tackle all responsibilities might ease some of the pressure. For example, I focused on different projects and areas of work on different days: Monday = school programs, Tuesday, volunteer and internship programs, Wednesday = public programs and exhibitions, etc. If you consider trying this out, think about leaving some time during the week for free/creative time to just think about things or do something non-work related to get your creative juices going.
- Keep meetings short–and–creative: Do meetings eat up your work week? It’s all too easy to schedule meetings and talk about what needs to be done, often leaving little time for the actual doing. It’s important to keep meetings on a schedule (and not go over your time). Try something different like standing up while you meet. Have you heard about this? Sometimes the best ideas come from the for-profit world.
- Deadlines are your friend: Regardless of the department or work-wide deadlines you have to adhere to, schedule your own deadlines. Keep to them and have contingency plans. It works and helps. Smaller deadlines help to see the progress of bigger/long-term projects. It also helps you feel like you’re getting things done, even if the end is nowhere in sight.
- Say YES to help: As I mentioned above my museum operated with very little staff. Our ability to grow and offer programs was based largely on the support and commitment of volunteers and members. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is let go a little and delegate responsibilities. If you have able and willing support–use them and their strengths to your advantage. Of course incentives to thank and encourage these important groups are always helpful and I’m sure, appreciated.
All too often professionals in our field give all of their time, knowledge, and heart to their job. That’s why any ideas or tips to being a little more efficient and able to stay motivated can really help.
What do you do to make it all work?