The Mobile Lecturer: Tips For Working Without An Office

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It’s tough enough to share an office. Working without anywhere to call your own, as many associate lecturers and visiting lecturers must, can feel like a horrifying prospect. Academics whose work requires them to work off-site for extended periods, such as those parachuting in to lecture on overseas programmes taught in rented rooms, or those teaching in workplaces, also need mobile solutions. 

The right processes. 

Before you even think about spending money, have a close look at how you organise your work plan and your work day. If you are working for more than one institution, are there ways that you can schedule your time more effectively?

A good diary, regularly updated, is your best friend. Electronic scheduling tools like those used in Outlook can be employed to ensure that you don’t accidentally double-book yourself or agree to engagements without factoring in enough time for travel and setting up. Strategic reminders can ensure that you are prepared. 

The right equipment. 

Long-term mobile workers have learned that when it comes to bits of kit to carry around, there are two crucial rules: 

  1. less is definitely more 
  2. technology can and will fail 

Accordingly, choose wisely. Opt for a laptop or tablet with as many connection options as possible, and make sure you have relevant adapters—it’s a big problem when you can’t connect with the projector provided. 

Always have triple backup copies of your lecture notes and presentations: on paper, on a memory stick, and online. You can use a “cloud” server like iCloud, a free service like Dropbox or GoogleDocs, or just email key files to yourself. The paper backup is essential, as anyone knows who has arrived to deliver a lecture based on a PowerPoint presentation, only to encounter a broken projector (or none at all). 

Think carefully about “mobile office” options, because you’ll need more than just a laptop to make things work comfortably. You’ll need room for books, papers, whiteboard markers, and so on—and a change of clothes if your work includes overnight travel. There are special suitcases on wheels created for the traveling sales market, but you can easily adapt a wheeled folding crate or shopping trolley at a lower cost. Just make sure you can lift and pull it without back strain.

Self-contained and self-managed.

Finally, it’s important to develop habits of mind that keep you from feeling stressed. Make sure that you maintain control over your schedule: before hours are imposed on you by employers, suggest times that work for you. You may be surprised at how often you’ll be successful.

There are benefits to mobile working, so take advantage of them. You’ll avoid office politics and boring hours spent sitting at a desk. Delivering material in workplaces or overseas can be interesting, and keeps you close to current developments. And there’s a lot to be said for preparing lectures while sitting at a café, and for meeting new and interesting groups of students regularly. The key to satisfaction is controlling and managing your work, with minimal disruption. 

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