I would settle for seven hours

bacon-shaped pillow
My office companion. His name is Kevin.

I have been a user of GTD fairly consistently over the past decade. As those familiar with the task-management system know, the “weekly review” is an essential step in the workflow. My review process is augmented significantly: there are 15 subtasks in my weekly review and I reserve the last 1.5-2 hours of my work week to accomplish it. One of those subtasks is to write down one thing I’ve learned.

Last year, the “outreach team” at mpow was upgraded to the “outreach department” with me at its head. The transition has been protracted and I am still working on the finer details, but I’ve learned much along the way. I’m in the midst of writing my annual review and so I thought I would share some of my lessons learned from last year. As you’ll notice, there’s an overarching theme. Each one of these below represents one week of the academic year.

Things I’ve Learned This Year

  • I have skills and resources to offer. Don’t forget that.
  • Sleep makes such a difference (need to remind myself of this every day).
  • Planning ahead works. Really works.
  • Get some sleep.
  • Two weeks of late nights will run me down by Thursday or Friday.
  • I need to delegate more.
  • You will never “win” as supervisor/admin (even if you think you do). Deal with it. And then be clear about what the next steps should be.
  • I need to start the planning process and get details outlined sooner.
  • Working late into the evening sucks. Let’s never do this again.
  • I can get more done in a shorter amount of time when I have sleep. Seriously. How hard is it to remember this?
  • There is much I can do to be a better leader. Specifically: passing along information sooner; giving staff/team members the freedom to pursue projects; recognizing strengths; being thankful. The responses to what motivates people and the type of recognition they crave is useful information to track.
  • Getting sleep doesn’t reduce stress, but helps with managing it.
  • If I do things quickly, or as soon as they arrive, I get more done in the week… just not always what is most important.
  • Energy wins the day.
  • I don’t have to make decisions on the spot. It’s OK to say “I’ll think about it.”
  • People can surprise you – expect the best.
  • I have to build workflows and constantly remind people of them if I want to have control over the aspects of my job that require my attention.
  • I can get by with working 9-12 each evening, but the hangover sucks.
  • I have to give people options. If you want to help them make a decision, give them options.
  • Keep quiet. Be discrete. Wait for the right moment.
  • Don’t get caught unprepared.
  • I can be a leader when I try to be.¬†Take the lead.
  • Delegated works needs to be followed up on.
  • I can get a shit-ton of work done if I don’t check email all day.

I’ll work on that sleeping part. ūüėČ

Moving away from 2017

pug
Beatrice the Pug cares little for New Year’s resolutions.

In 2016, I resolved to simplify and to focus on ways to increase my creative output both at work and at home as well as contribute to self-fulfillment. I pledged to read my own tomes, to finish an outstanding research project, to commit to monthly challenges, and repeat my mantras daily.

I didn’t do any of that.

Instead, I over-complicated my work-life balance by attempting (and failing) at an assortment of daily routines. I continued to allow myself to get bogged down in other people’s projects and priorities. I hardly read anything at all. I dropped the research project (thankfully), the monthly challenges (by month three), and the daily mantras (at the recommendation of my therapist).

Nonetheless, I am back again with a series of resolutions for 2018. Let’s keep this simple:

Priorities for 2018

One thing I did manage to accomplish in 2017 was decrease my digital footprint. I deleted over 30 online accounts. I’d like to continue that trend and eventually get off Facebook entirely. Possibly Twitter as well. I also want to limit the news I consume to just a few respectful sources (primarily NYTimes and Metafilter) so I can spend more time contributing to what I care about, i.e. LibraryThing and Wikipedia. Additionally, I’d like to:

  • Read my own tomes
  • Sleep 8 hours every day
  • Strengthen my meditation practice
  • Call my parents weekly

Habits to continue to cultivate

These habits-to-cultivate are the same ones I resolved to develop last year. I’ve made some progress on them, especially through regular mediation and therapy, but I still have a lifetime of work ahead of me.

  • Be grateful.
  • Be present.
  • Smile.
  • Breath.
  • Listen.
  • Make eye contact.

Of course, blogging more is a perennial desire. You may have noticed I’ve started back-filing posts as far back as 2010. As I continue to (re)discover content that I posted to various online spaces over the past decade, I’m steadily moving some of that to this domain. ūüėČ

 

Horribly destructive habits start early

I’ve been striving¬†to stop talking about how busy I am. It’s not easy:

“How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy ‚ÄĒ just like us?”

From “The Disease of Being Busy” by Omid Safi.

Moving into 2016

Moving into my new office
Moving into my new office

In 2015, I pledged to simplify and to do better. Despite a series of increasingly troubling health issues that consistently limited my professional output, I’m happy to say that I am in a better place now than where I was this time last year. Moreover, I am looking forward to 2016 as possibly being one of the most productive years of my career as a librarian so far.

Professional goals

My professional goals for this year are quite simple:

  • finish my IRDL research project (finally)
  • apply for one grant
  • submit one proposal to a conference
  • create one new sustainable program at MPOW
  • strategically develop better relationships

The last one of these is the most nebulous, but essentially I want to spend more time reflecting upon my professional relationships/networks and how they can be mutually beneficial to all the parties involved.

Personal goals

My personal goals are also simple and focus on ways to increase my creative output both at work and at home as well as contribute to self-fulfillment:

read my own tomes

My partner and I are currently using the Konmari method to organize our home and despite our deep love of books we recognize the need to slim down our collection. In doing so, I’ve realized just how many books I own but have never read. Inspired by a LibraryThing group of similar name, I’ll be focusing on reading books that have sat long neglected on my shelves.

give to things I like

Each month, I plan to give a donation of money or time to something that I love. It could be a non-profit, podcast creator, software program designer, or a local group. It is a simple step toward being more appreciative of the things that enrich my life (and hopefully the lives of others).

track my health

I’m not pledging to exercise more or eat more vegetables, but I will commit to tracking my food, sleep, and exercise habits using my recently purchased Fitbit. Tracking this information in and of itself will¬†improve my health and after a few months of data collection I’ll be in a better position to make concrete health goals.

commit to one 30-day challenge each month

Rather than set a year-long goal that in all likelihood would fail, I will commit to doing one 30-day challenge each month. The focus for each challenge will be improving either my health, creativity, or kindness.

review my mantra daily

I’ve been constantly tweaking a “mantras.txt” file over the past year and slowly making it a weekly, if not daily, habit. I’m ready to make this my daily mantra:

Be grateful. Be present. Smile. Breath. Listen. Make eye contact. I acknowledge¬†that there will¬†always be more things to do, more projects to start, more progress that could be made. I acknowledge that I cannot do everything, but I can choose what I focus on in a given space of time. There is rarely a “best” choice, and the fear-of-missing-out is a distraction.

That is the plan for 2016. As always, writing more is a perennial goal and which for better or worse will happen in this space. Happy New Year!

Shakespeare never had to face 200 emails a day

“In an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention,” says Pico Iyer¬†[SLYT], “and in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still.” I’ve been trying to work more silence into my life, but in practice this only happens a few minutes a day for¬†perhaps a couple days a week. For many librarians, making a living and making a life are often the same thing. I am undecided on the issue (and admittedly guilty of lacking¬†any sense of work-life balance), but I would be content to have a set moment every day for reflection.