As a librarian, I’m pretty familiar with the concept of Metadata – the information about information that we use to catalog items in our libraries and arrange information in our websites, among other things. A concept I’m just starting to become more familiar with, however, is the concept of Metawork. This is work we do in order to work – the email processing and the time management required to get to work on time as well as to get work done by deadlines and the understanding how to attend, take notes and process work from meetings as well as general “how to make sure we can do the work we learned how to do in college or in our training” activities. These skills are rarely, if ever, taught in school – most people just sort of pick them up as they learn the ropes in their first few jobs, but those first few jobs would be far more productive and useful for both the employee and employer if the ideas behind the metawork that we all have to learn how to do is more explicitly taught.
I just finished reading a book: Charnas, Dan. Everything in Its Place: The Power of Mise-En-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind. New York, New York: Rodale, 2017. In it, the author compares the chef’s practice of Mise-En-Place to the office worker’s need to get things done efficiently and effectively. He begins the book with a story of a *really * bad day at the office that bleeds over into the “hero’s” home life and just sounds miserable – because most of us can relate. Dan then goes on to describe a way of thinking about what is essentially metawork that happens in order for the “real” work of your office to get done.
Many of the elements of metawork I listed above (time management, meeting management, etc.) I cover in a piecemeal fashion in the classes I teach on Project Management, Personal Knowledge Management and Time/Task Management. I’m really not familiar with any course or webinar or collection of good articles that covers the entirety of what you should know before you start working, besides the details of your profession, of course. I don’t cover email management, though that is touched on in the GTD time management classes I’ve done and meeting management I’ve glanced over in various classes like my Project Management course at Library Juice Academy.
One way to tackle the problem of metawork was mentioned in R. J. Nestor’s Weekend Upgrade Newsletter #18 on the idea of recurrant work needs to be templated. In my job, I make a fair number of training and tutorial videos and having a process that I can use as a checklist to ensure that I’ve:
- Created a storyboard document outlining the scenes and information I want to include
- Applied the template that I’ve created in Camtasia to the video and set up the production settings for each video properly.
- Created handouts and other documentation for each video
- Uploaded and posted and advertised the video to my libraries for their use
Those kinds of tasks (and this is a simplification of the actual process I go through, of course, but it hits the high points) are things I have to be able to do in order to produce the work that I’m being paid to produce by my employer. It’s a form of metawork as well – and knowing that coming up with a template that outlines the process and how to store/navigate/use that template as you do your work are all metawork kinds of skills.
So I’m toying with a metawork class, but I’m not sure where to put it (Library Juice? ALA Ecourses? Somewhere else?) and what *exactly* the course would cover, but the idea of getting a class together that young professionals could access in order to give them a bit of a leg up on how to do the work around the work they do sounds interesting to me…