There are a few things that can tell you a lot about a person: the inside of their closet, how they respond to a flight delay, and—our personal favorite—what’s on top of their desk. Below, Vice President Joe Oster shares the stories behind some of his favorite things in his office, including his #1 productivity tip and a surprising superstition.
On how he stays on top of his work:
I always think of the mind as a rolodex—there are thousands of ideas constantly rolling through it. Sometimes when I’m prepping for a meeting, I feel like I have to scroll through hundreds of ideas before getting to the one I want. To avoid that, I constantly write things down. One of my old bosses at UCLA always carried two index cards: one with his daily schedule, and one to write down ideas, notes and action items. I adopted the habit from him and it’s served me well for the past twenty years. No matter where I am—out on campus talking to students, sitting at a stoplight, wherever—if I think of something or see something, I jot it down on my card, then copy it over to my master to-do list later. It’s how I remember; it’s how I learn; and it’s how I accomplish things.
On what keeps him grounded:
I was an avid fisherman when I lived in California. The photo in the middle was taken near my uncle’s trailer in Mexico. My brother had just endured a tough battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He had lost 50-60 pounds and was using every bit of his strength to hold up that fish. I have almost the same photo from earlier this year, but this time he’s healthy and strong, catching a 300 pound tuna! It reminds me of how far we can come.
My sons gave me this Father’s Day card when they were in college, and it became an instant classic for our family. It says “human cash machine,” which was exactly how I felt having two kids in college. Looking back, it may have been a harbinger for things to come in my career, too.
Why you’ll never see him write with a black pen:
I’m always searching for the best pen and will try anything with one caveat: it has to have blue ink. Blue’s my favorite color, and it has the added bonus of helping me know if something has my original signature or not! I also always wear blue on Mondays. It starts the week off on the right foot.
You can’t keep everything, but I do hang on to a few things that remind me of how far TU has come. This bowling pin is from the Union bowling alley that used to be where Paws is now. When we renovated the space we left the original lanes under the new carpet in case they ever want to restore it. Still, I have a feeling I won’t be using this pin there anytime soon. The SECU Arena replica is a gift for being one of the first season ticket holders when the basketball team moved to the new facility.
On why he’s proud to be a Tiger:
I was awarded this plaque when I became President-elect of NACAS East. At the time, I had been a member for six years and my colleagues and I had done lots of presentations showcasing our Auxiliary projects and achievements. Going to those events made it real obvious that TU is doing lots of great things. We have a pretty amazing university in a lot of ways, and it’s easy to take it for granted until you compare it with others.
I have a saying: “Always put today to bed before you leave, and prepare for tomorrow before you go.” Before I head out of the office in the evening, I wrap up what I can and review what I need to do for the following day. Even when I need to take some work home, the simple act of getting myself organized in the office helps me to relax when I return in the morning.
By Pamela Gorsuch