Tag: office

Office supplies and technologies that can improve faculty productivity

Below is a list of office supplies and technologies that I find useful in my job as a faculty member.

1) Coloured file folders

We once dreamed about a world where technology would make it possible to go completely paperless. We aren’t there yet and I strongly doubt that we ever really will be. I’ve found it helpful to organize projects into coloured file folders that relate to one particular role of my job as a faculty member. Anything related to administration is burgundy (e.g. service, financials, etc.), teaching is violet (e.g. course syllabi, student assignments, tests, etc.), blue is research (e.g. lab supplies, vendor catalogues, grant applications, etc.), and teal is current projects (e.g. manuscript writing, lab experiments, etc.). I find that this colour coding helps to keep me organized.

2) Post-it Notes

The glue used in post-it notes was a failed experiment which as a scientist I think is hilarious and is a good commentary on the importance of basic research and making mistakes while doing science. I use post-its for a wide variety of reasons and in a multitude of colours. For the past several months I’ve been using 3” x 3” post-its on my personal Kanban board in my office and I hope to write a future blog post on that topic. I also use yellow lined larger post-its for capturing lists or ideas that I need to flesh out in more detail.

3) Label maker

I have already waxed poetic about the label maker in a previous post . It is one of the greatest human inventions ever. Enough said.

4) Writing implements (a.k.a. pens)

I am a pen snob and am very particular about them. About a year ago I discovered the Pentel EnerGel Metal Tip 0.7 mm ball pen in black . No leaking, no smudging, quick drying, smooth…this pen has it all. “Borrow” my pens at your own peril!

5) Notebooks

I prefer to use the Hilroy 80 page 1 subject lined notebooks. Many of my colleagues use bound notebooks (e.g. Moleskine), but I write in my notebooks and then rip out the pages so these don’t work for me.

6) iPad

I use my iPad in my daily work as my calendar, task manager, timer, etc. and have previously written a post on several apps that I find useful .

7) Generic office supplies

I’ve got a stapler, staple remover, paperclips, scotch tape, scissors, and a calculator that I use regularly in a desk drawer. I also purchased a letter opener and the number of paper cuts that I receive has dropped exponentially. I also find that the “sign here” sticky flags have proven very useful for one up approval of grant applications, financial reconciliations, and various other documents that need approvals from my departmental Chair and Dean.

8) External hard drive

I back up my laptop regularly in case my computer decides to go nuclear or on the small chance that my computer gets stolen. I’ll likely migrate to a cloud back-up soon, but if the laptop is in my office then the external drive comes home with me and vice versa.

None of these items is particularly ground breaking or earth shattering, but I find that when used together in my everyday work activities they save me a lot of time and vastly increase my productivity.

Care to share the office supplies that you find useful as a professor?

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Is your academic office a pit of despair?

When I started this job a huge perk was that I finally got my own office. While there are often limitations on what you can physically do to your office, I spent a bit of time thinking about my office set-up in an attempt to make it a pleasant place to work in so that I could be as efficient and productive as possible. Given how much time we faculty members spend in our offices I think that this is a good long term investment and is worth thinking about. My office is still a work in progress, but recently several colleagues have commented on how dynamic my office space is compared to theirs. I’m taking this as a compliment and as a sign that I must be doing something right!

Without further ado here are some suggestions on how to make your office more comfortable and less sterile:

Wall surfaces: A new coat of paint can do wonders, but that isn’t always possible. The next best thing is to hide scuffs and holes as best you can. I’ve done this by hanging up a small bulletin board, a white dry-ease board, an awesome poster of a photosynthetic sea slug, my academic degrees, and a cool frog calendar.

Floor: My office has generic brown/grey carpet that’s in great shape. It gets vacuumed regularly by the custodial staff, so I’m happy. I added a plastic runner under my desk chair so that I can wheel around freely.

Lighting: I’m very lucky that my office has a huge window and receives a lot of light. I also have the ability to open parts of the window which is awesome. One handy tip is that it is a good idea to set your computer monitor up perpendicularly to the window in order to avoid constant glare. If you don’t have a window in your office and don’t do well with fluorescent lighting it’s worth the investment to get a task lamp or two to avoid headaches.

Furniture: I inherited serviceable furniture with my office that included two tall bookshelves, a gigantic horizontal filing cabinet, an L-shaped desk, a small under-desk filing cabinet, and a blue fabric task chair on wheels. Most universities have a storage depot for used furniture that you can raid, or if you are negotiating a new position see if you can get some money to purchase office furniture. Two years into my job I decided to spend some of my professional funds on a more supportive office chair; it’s been money well spent given the amount of time I spend seated in my office.

Living Things: Plants look awesome, add life to an office, and require very little upkeep. Several of my colleagues have aquariums in their offices that are pretty neat.

Computer set-up: Take a little time to learn about ergonomics; your wrists and back will thank you years later. I use a laptop with a docking station which makes coming and going considerably easier. If you use a laptop invest in a separate large monitor in order to prevent neck strain and hunched shoulder syndrome. I switched to a dual screen display this morning; it’s been a revelation!

Personal items: Bring in and display items that make you happy and that are useful. I display photos of my kids, some colleagues have Tassimo or Keurig coffee machines in their offices. Maybe your office gets cold and it would be a good idea to bring in a big sweater so that you can be comfortable.

My office is a work in progress and I’m continually looking for ways to liven the space up a bit.

How have you made your office space your own?

(Bonus points if you caught “The Princess Bride” reference in the title of this post!)