How My College Experience Impacts My Workday

by Joe on October 20, 2008

Last week, I recieved an email from an old professor of mine, Peg Faimon, asking me to write a “Journal-for-a-day”. John Foster from IDEO will be working with Miami University to help them design a new educational program using select journals.  And of all people, they asked me to help, how awesome!

The “Journal-for-a-day” assignment asked me to describe how my work day flows, what activities I find interesting, and what work makes me think of my time and experiences at Miami University.  So I want to share how I organize my work day and how my experience at college impacts how and what I do on a daily basis, it just so happens that the day I journaled about was a rather exciting one in Budapest, Hungary!  (which explains my much too lengthy absence from blogging)

So without further adieu, some notes about how I spent my day and some nuggets I learned in school that I used during the day (yes, college can actually teach you something).

My Day: October 14th, 2008 | Budapest, Hungary

Getting started
Triage email. Filter out the stuff that can be done later/read later or deleted.  Push the todo’s into a special folder and hammer out the urgent tasks right then.  After triage is over, get started working on the frog for the day that I prepared before I left the office the day before.  What is a frog?  It’s that big task that is the project that will get you to the next step/next milestone/add huge value.  Its the hard task that takes time, focus and energy.  I must make myself get out of email and admin tasks to actually work at something that will drive the company and my job forward. 
Work on the frog.  I spend most of my morning making sure I am making progress. Analyzing, problem solving and communicating with key stakeholders to advance the project.  In Budapest, I was reviewing some account reconciliations (aka. spreadsheets for you non-accounting folks).  My main task was to analyze what was provided and ensure it was complete and correct.  This isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but I did learn an awful lot about inventory and how it hits the balance sheet. 
Lunch break
Ah, the Canteen.  Canteen and ordering in Hungarian. Ah yes, one of life’s most wonderful “opportunities”.  You point at an English/Hungarian menu, hoping that whatever comes out is something resembling the English words on the paper.  60% of the choices are fried, so you cant go wrong there, but the stomach ache in the afternoon isn’t worth the assurance of knowing that french fries are french fries everywhere.  It only took one order of “Thai Noodles” to make me stick to the fried foods.  I know, Thai in Hungary. Hey, I was giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Mid-afternoon is a misnomer since I break the afternoon into several chunks.  Following lunch, I catch-up with industry news on google reader and check my emails for urgent and “frog” related items.  Following that Triage session I move to finish up some work on my “frog” and summarize the questions and issues I have found throughout my work day. I find that creating a summary of these issues helps me define the problems and questions much better and thus provide and create better solutions.  Its really quite DMAIC. Since I was working on the Audit, I then had a end of day status meeting with the Audit Manager to review any questions or issues. 
Leaving work
Typically we took a bus back to the city center as there were plenty of folks at the Plant from out of town, but on this day, we took a cab back a bit earlier than normal, so I ensured that I had prepared a “frog” for the next workday, so that I would not spend 15 minutes groping around for the information I needed to make something happen in the morning.  I also spent the last minutes of the day completing the todo tasks that arrived in my inbox throughout the day.

Nuggets from college that had an impact

  • In FIN 301, Bill Scanlon had us write Business Memos. We wrote about whatever we wanted, but we had to make it informative and concise.  Scanlon helped me realize, after a few terrible memo grades, that the fluff and flourish writing style I mastered in my political science papers was not my ticket to the top of the business world.  My emails at work now have the brevity of a stock quote.
  • In IMS 440, I learned how to accomplish work by removing ambiguity.  At work, its like school in that you have certain tasks you must complete within a time frame.  The what and how you get there is not defined. At school you get a syllabus and execute. At work, you get a final, create your own syllabus and then execute.  Life is a blank syllabus that my coursework and time at Miami prepared me to create and execute.
  • I find myself creating milestones or goals and objectives to measure progress at work.  When I create these milestones I enable myself to ensure that I am achieving personal, professional or job growth.  At Miami, there were only two courses that encouraged me to do that, and 2 of who knows how many courses isn’t the best ratio, but hey, 2 prepared me much better than 0.
  • At the plant, we interacted withmany people from accountants to assembly line workers.  At Miami in both of my capstones, I worked with students from over 12 other majors.  This experience helped me to understand how to slow down and take on different perspectives while working with people from different backgrounds.

So that is how I typically organize my day, and some ways that my college experience impacted my work day.  “Journal-for-a-day” was an awesome break from my traditional blogging routine. 

Now I want to learn from YOU!  What sorts of things do you all do to make your day efficient? Should I check my mail more often? Less often? At a different time of day?  Teach me oh you the wise!


Awesome post!

I wonder if you thought those were going to be the things you used in the real world when you were learning them in college. I also think that it is great that you picked email as your example of a place where feedback could occur. I turn to email far too often throughout the day.

I have a question though. How do you deal with interruptions? If you don’t have a door on your cube you can shut, did you learn anything at Miami or elsewhere that helps you be efficient when others insert themselves into your schedule?

by Matt Welty on October 21, 2008 at 11:08 am. Reply #

Matt~ Way to hit the target. I might have to take a whole post to talk about that! I think dealing with interruptions is the hardest part about work.

The main thing is using that decline button on meeting invites from outlook. Ask folks to reschedule if a meeting falls in your “sweet spot” that time you use to work on your “frog”.

Other than that, if someone stops by to just chat about something while you are obviously busy, say something along these lines “Hey matt, I’m really glad you stopped by but I am really trying to finish some work on this project, are you able to get together today/tomorrow at lunch to talk about this?”

Extend relationships while being firm in your desire to make progress from 8-5. Good luck with those interruptions! I’d love to hear how you currently deal with them!

by Joe on October 29, 2008 at 9:02 am. Reply #

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