13 Tips to Relieve Spring Stress in the Financial Aid Office
Submitted by Dave Bowman, Regional Marketing Director
While closing the door on winter should be a relief, spring brings one of the busiest seasons to the financial aid office. If you're feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, check out 13 tips we've compiled to help you streamline your work, control your environment, and take care of yourself to optimize your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
1) Minimize distractions so that you can complete important projects. Forward your phone to voice mail for a brief amount of time, and turn off email and mobile device notifications to minimize interruptions and create concentrated, productive time. Checking the most difficult or important tasks off your list gives you a huge mental boost, leaving you in a better mindset to handle all the other things that crop up.
2) Don't let email clutter slow you down. Create folders to organize your emails as you get them, and use the search feature in Outlook to find them more quickly. If you're working in an Outlook environment and have colleagues who overuse the "reply to all" option, look into the NoReplyAll Outlook add-in to help your office reduce email clutter.
3) Leverage existing channels to help your students help themselves. Record a walk-through training of your online counseling tool, for example, or provide a quick tutorial at orientation, and then use your office's social media channels to let students know how it may be accessed to save you - and them - time.
4) Know when to go old school. If you've gone back and forth three times on something via email, pick up the phone instead, and get it sorted out in a real conversation. Better yet, get up from your desk and visit a colleague if they’re not too far away.
5) Feel too busy to take lunch? Low blood sugar does not help concentration, mood, or energy, making it a bad idea all-around to skip lunch. If you must, keep working during the quiet time when others are at lunch, but be sure to take a lunch break when they return. And, if you're having a particularly rough morning, a short time away with a colleague for lunch may help your perspective or even identify a way to ease the stress.
6) Investing time to learn to use your tools can have a huge, repeat payoff in time saved later. For example, consider using a Microsoft Word merge feature that lets you send a document to multiple people, allows them to make changes, and then merges everything back into one document, letting you select the changes you want to keep.
7) Take a walk outside or do some simple exercises at your desk, like breathing or stretching, to get the blood flowing. It will give you a fresh outlook, renewed energy, and release some of the tension that may have built up in your body while you worked. A few minutes invested can make you immensely more productive.
8) Automate repeatable tasks and simplify projects by using shortcuts, bookmarks, and speed-dial for your most frequently used resources. Create templates for your most commonly used documents. Record work processes on paper so they can be shared easily with others who may be able to help with them. Look for apps that reduce your workload. Financial Aid Director Scott Cline, for example, has been able to toss out the legal pad and sticky notes with an app called Drafts for iOS.
9) Not everything can be handled electronically in the aid office. Set up a left-to-right workflow for paperwork on your desk. It comes in on the left, is processed in the middle, and goes out on the right.
10) Take a tip from one of your colleagues, who shared this suggestion in our Listening Sessions. Set up an account with SignUp Genius and share the link with students who need to make an appointment with you. With students scheduling their own appointments, you'll save timeundefinedand with automatic reminders, students are more likely to keep the appointment they set.
11) Laughing and smiling release chemicals in your body that improve mood and energy. If you've ever laughed in the most stressful of situations, you may remember how good it felt. Looking for and acknowledging the humor in any stressful situation with a laugh or a smile, even to yourself, helps you keep things in perspectiveundefinedand keep going.
12) Pick up other tips through free training. Consider signing up for Great Lakes' May SmartSessions™ webinar, Eating the Frog First and Other Key Principles of Time Management, or find other, similar free trainings that may provide relief for you and your stressed colleagues.
13) At the end of the day, take a few minutes to clear the electronic and paper clutter, so that tomorrow you can avoid the aftermath of today. A fresh start offers the promise of a better day.
Dave Bowman is a Regional Marketing Director with Great Lakes, serving schools in Tennessee and Kentucky. You can reach Dave at (888) 685-1604, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about Great Lakes can be found online at https://schools.mygreatlakes.org/.