One of the things that you will find in any job that doesn’t involve heavy lifting while outside in the rain (and a surprising number of jobs that do, actually) is paperwork.
Everything must be documented, noted, filed, pulled, analyzed, refiled, and then lost to posterity until some raffish archeologist in a snazzy hat rediscovers it and is about to bring it to wider attention when it gets crated up by blandly reassuring civil servants and left in some dusty archive for another millennium, after which nobody cares.
I have this vision of some future historian looking through my notes and saying, “Should that really be FA or should it have been noted as FL?” Not sure I could answer that myself most of the time, to be honest.
But those are the hoops that are set up, so those are the hoops you jump through.
Mostly at work I take care of that sort of thing right away because otherwise I have no memory of what happened at all and would just end up putting down random stuff, and the thing about doing paperwork for professionals is that they’re good at telling when you’re doing that and they tend to frown on that sort of thing. It’s just easier for everyone to get it done quickly.
Unless it’s the beginning of the semester.
As an advisor I try to have all of my new students come in during the first ten days or so – while there is still time to add new classes if some of the others need to be dropped, and before the first payment is due so I might either resolve financial aid issues or at least warn the student that they need to throw some bucks at the university so they can get onto a payment plan and then we’ll have another month to resolve those issues. This means that my calendar – another thing I am required to maintain – gets very, very full.
And the paperwork gets very, very behind.
The add deadline passed this week and my calendar opened up a bit, which means that the eight-inch-high pile of folders on my desk could now be addressed, preferably airmail to Mozambique, but failing that I could take each one and do the required paperwork for them. And really, Mozambique is an expensive and inconvenient place to mail things so the paperwork is actually easier.
It took me three days to reduce that pile to zero, in between other commitments (teaching, random meetings, and so on), further student appointments (adding to the pile rather than subtracting from it) and responding to the inevitable flood of emails that engulfs academics even in the best of times. I still have a few things to take care of before I can get the full Caught Up With Paperwork feeling, but those of necessity will wait until Monday.
Now I can start to chip away at some of the other things I’m trying to stay caught up with.