Small Wins at Work

Posted: March 31, 2015 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Work is an interesting thing. Many people do not take kindly to it, not even the term itself. I have never felt this way. I’ve always liked to work in the abstract and often truly delighted in work in the particular. Work yields meaningful productivity. To accomplish something, whatever that something is, feels fantastic.

smallwinsI had a small work victory this week, inspired by a conference I attended in March. Throughout two days of four-hour discussion sessions, the conference didn’t seem particularly valuable; however, in that time, I did formulate one fresh idea. One new, useful idea can affect remarkable change.

I am both an English professor and a reference librarian at good ol’ RMU, flexing into the library when I am needed, as I am this term. I have done three rotations into the library. When in the library, I crave a project, inventing them for myself.  I am happy to have the support of the head librarian, Sue Dutler, who readily accepts my offers to change, to rearrange, to contribute. Work encourages involvement and creates an impact in our community at every level. This is why doing “good” work feels good—no matter what it is.

My new idea was in response to a significant problem: paper waste in academic libraries. As an educator, I am perfectly fine with students printing any documents they need and will use. My complaint is with the terrifyingly tall stacks of print outs left behind, unused, completely and utterly wasted. It is this kind of behavior I am hoping to correct. In order to address the problem of paper waste, I proposed an awareness campaign.

Because the university’s image makers are not fond of excessive signage, I knew my message could not be printed or posted in a traditional sense. Moreover, it would be hypocritical to print flyers asking students to print less. I proposed an electronic message to students: a reminder to consider whether or not they should print a document before doing so. A request to reflect is central to all initiatives; little changes have a large impact. Recently, I started reading a book that addresses the power of small wins within the context of big changes The Power of Habit: Why we Do What We Do in Life and Business. Happily, the serendipitous intersection of ideas pervades higher education.

The head libr3rarian helped me put my plan into action, advising me to get approval from various entities, including asking the IT department to help us install the screensaver on all the computers in the library. Amazingly, this process only took a few days, and on Monday, March 30, 2015, my small vision sprang to life on the computers, as if by magic.

The message is good and clean. One of the IT professionals even went so far as to call it “elegant,” for which I take only the credit of selecting an image that is balanced and beautiful and instantly recognizable. I wrote the ‘copy’ with an intentionally gentle and positive message, “Think Before You Print; In Honor of Earth Day, April 22, 2015, Our Environment Thanks You.”

A “thank you” is always nice, and personifying the environment was an intentional strategy to help the students feel connected to our environment.

Each day, work offers the small win of doing something meaningful, and an occasion to celebrate a job well done.

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