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Balancing

October 1, 2010

Do you ever think about balancing? And while you’re pondering that question, I have another one for you: how do you define balance? When you hear the word “balance” what does it bring to mind? Work-life balance? A balanced ecosystem? A balanced checkbook? Harmony? Balance is a hot topic in the library world right now, even if few writers actually use the term. We are trying to balance service to our patrons with acknowledging that we cannot do everything with smaller budgets and overworked staff. We try to balance fostering a personalized learning experience for our students with ever increasing class sizes. Balance, in other words, seems to come up most often when we are talking about systems, people, lifestyles that are out of balance. So today I’d like to write about a few different types of balance and a few technology tools that may help with your productivity so you can attempt to find balance in your work and life.

This issue comes up at my library when people talk about workload issues, especially when we talk about our teaching load. I always find it interesting to talk about workload issues because I am definitely for drawing boundaries (see last week’s post), I’m also someone who believes you finish the task you agreed to or were assigned and don’t count the hours. My philosophy has usually been work until you’re done. That being said, one can easily get consumed by work so when the school year starts (which coincides with the restarting of committee work on the library and university level and therefore an increase in workload), I always think about how to achieve balance. If I ever figure out the secret, I’ll let you know. But I did find this article by Lifehacker, establishing boundaries between work and play, to be a good reminder about the importance of getting both physically and mentally “out of the office.” WebWorkerDaily also has a great article to help out with the issue of balance, time management beyond the task list.

I think one of the biggest issues is how to decide how technology can help create a balance in your life versus which just sucks away your precious time. Now, depending on how you use it, a smartphone can either be an intense distraction that breaks your concentration or a huge time-saver. For me, as long as I don’t check Twitter every couple of minutes, it has been a great time-saver. For those of you that have smartphones, check out two guides from Lifehacker, best Android apps for getting things done and best iPhone apps for productivity. (Never let it be said I didn’t give equal space to Android and iOS.) So how do you balance your use of technology or use it to facilitate productivity and allow you more time to relax or do whatever else you want to do in your life? How do you help your patrons navigate the ever-changing realm of technology and communication tools? If you need something to get you focused on using technology as the tool it is supposed to be (and not the ‘end all and be all’), check out this lovely article, Achieving Techno-Literacy.

Balance takes on another cast when we talk about instruction in the classroom and at the reference desk. How do we balance different learning styles and personalities in the classroom? How do we balance the time it takes to help someone at the desk when there is a line of other patrons who also need help? I think that this is where the side of our profession and training that is an art form comes in. I don’t think there is a formula that can tell you how to manage a class or exactly how many minutes to spend helping someone with a reference questions. (Of course there are books one can read and classes one can take to get better at teaching or inter-personal skills, but there is no magic key that makes everything work out smoothly.) I think everyone has to learn this kind of balance for themselves. It comes down to being human.

Learning balance, in all facets of life, is a process, a process I think that goes more smoothly (and with less falling) if we help each other. So let’s all try to not get caught up in the mentality that ‘more hours at work equals better work’ or that being up on email at 3am is a desirable activity. And if you have any techniques for balance, in any area of your life, I’d love to hear about it.

And for Friday’s fun, check out this wonderful promo for the BBC show, Being Human, and be thankful that no matter what you have to balance, at least you don’t have to pretend to be human.

The Waki Librarian will be back next week; enjoy your weekend and let me know what you’re reading. Thank you and namaste.

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