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Learning about Time, Work, and Life

August 24, 2012

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well and has been productive. I can hardly believe that we are coming to the end of August. Where does the time go? Today I want to share some of my thoughts on time, work, and life as I’ve been thinking a lot about the next steps in my life (especially since the question of, “What are you doing next?” has been asked by a lot of people after they learned I finished my PhD).

With limited time, we all know that we we can’t do everything, but that doesn’t always make it easier to figure out what we should be spending our time on each day and overall. There are many posts, especially on Lifehacker, about making your job better, working more productively, or making work feel less like work (including the great articles on the 80/20 rule and on the joy of missing out). But, even with help on making the daily work more productive, without having a plan or at least an idea of where we want to go, we can just feel the time slip away without having a sense of fulfillment. I know, personally, that this can happen incredibly easily, especially in public services like libraries and archives where we often have to respond to varying levels of emergencies and last minute events that can derail a well-planned day.

I probably think way too much about what I should (and want to) ultimately be doing in life (especially if you ask my friends and family), but I still believe it is important to plan one’s life and not let everyone else dictate my priorities. Luckily, I was able to have a lovely, long chat with one of my doctoral supervisors about the issues of work , life, finding balance and purpose, which made me feel much better about my life and where I want it to lead.

It is a cliche, but still true, that in the end the majority of people will not bemoan not spending enough time at work, but will bemoan not spending enough time with family and friends, with hobbies that s/he loved, and on enjoying life. Now this of course doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard at work, but that we should enjoy all the parts of life and not become workaholics, which I find a seductive, but unhealthy trap that I can too easily fall into, especially as I’m fortunate and love the work that I do because I love to teach, mentor, research, and connect people to others and to new ideas. So after much thought and thanks to my supervisor, I’m going to share with you some of my plans for the coming years.

I’ll continue to work efficiently and effectively at my position as Online Literacy Librarian and Archivist. I will be the one who gets in early in the morning and works, in a single tasking manner all day, but leaves without staying 10 hours (unless absolutely necessary, because we all know there are times when deadlines hit). Then I’m going home and transitioning into home and project time. Because, as one of my most admired colleagues/friends said, “If you can’t get it done in your working day, you’re probably doing something wrong.” And when I mindfully plan, prepare, and truly work, I can get it done in a day. There’s always more work to do, but it can almost always wait. As an added bonus, I’ve found that when I plan my work like this, I don’t hurry and make mistakes and usually come out the other side with a much better product.

Being mindful, as my dear friend, Hanna, would say, is key. There are always work projects that need to be done, even if they are not something thrilling, but I can be mindful about controlling how the majority of my time at work is spent. That is what has been allowing me to get a lot of work done, help out other colleagues from different departments on campus with their projects, while still being able to go home at the end of the day knowing I’ve accomplished what needs to be done and having a plan for the next day. Also, completely turning off work email notifications on my phone while at home has been one of the best contributors to my more relaxed state in the last few weeks. Because, as another lovely colleague reminded me, “We’re not doing brain surgery here. No one is going to die if you don’t check your email at home.” Thank goodness for that.

Since I no longer have a PhD to work on when I go home from work, I’m taking time to get back into some of the activities I had to put away during the last three years. I’m excited that I’ll have time to work more on my photography (maybe even brushing up on some darkroom work), to finish up designs for friends (including wedding announcements for two of my favorite people on the planet), to read all the books that have been sitting on my “to read” list for years, to bake all the recipes I’ve been saving from Joy the Baker, to find more ways to give back, and to spend more time with my friends and long-suffering partner (not to mention my cat, who will tell you that she suffered the most during this last period of schoolwork). In short, I’ll be able to balance my work and research with relaxing projects that feed the other passions in my life. To me, this is one of the most exciting developments post-degree of all.

Speaking of exciting developments, I’m going to be traveling to Australia at the end of the year to attend graduation in Brisbane. So don’t be surprised to see some photos in the new year. I’ll also be speaking at Library 2.012 online conference with Clarence Maybee and Virginia Tucker on October 3 at 9am Pacific Time. We’ll be talking about publishing from your thesis and dissertation. So login in if you have time; it’ll be a great presentation.

I hope my ramblings have spurred some thoughts about your own work and life balances. I’d love to hear your advice and thoughts in the comments. What makes you happy/content/fulfilled in work and non-work lives? It’s all a process and luckily we can always get better at how we live our lives.

I’ll be back soon with more thoughts on libraries, archives, tech, and life. I already have some musings on e-textbooks, which I hope to share soon. Until then, dear readers, allons-y!

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