I am very disciplined. Usually. And sometimes I am not. I have a feeling many of you share this duality, and I think there is a good reason for it.
Back in August, I did a blog called A Matter of Time. In it I discussed time management techniques to keep you from getting overwhelmed. I advocated various forms of To-Do lists to keep you on track, recommending you find one that works for you.
And I certainly have a To-Do list. I couldn’t function without one, yet there are some days when almost nothing gets checked off. I used to become upset with myself for being so unproductive and not completing all those important tasks. But I have come to realize it isn’t all bad to take time off.
I have found I am most likely to procrastinate the day after I have been extremely busy and productive. It’s as though my mind and body are sending a signal they need to recharge. And we do. We can’t keep draining ourselves. There is a cost.
Most of us have numerous obligations outside of work. Whether it’s getting kids to sports or other activities, preparing dinner, doing laundry, taking care of the lawn, or shopping. The list is long. Consider what happens to your attitude and your patience when you have been on the run for days on end.
When you have been going full tilt on your job, you are likely to get impatient when you are interrupted, whether by a student or a teacher. And yet, our jobs are full of interruptions. It’s who we are and we want people to know we are there to help them. I once wore a button that said, “Please disturb me.”
You know by now the importance of building and maintaining relationships. They are key to our success. The last thing you want is for teachers and students to think you don’t have time to respond to their requests. You can destroy a relationship much quicker than you can build one, particularly if it isn’t well established.
There’s also the matter of burnout. When you keep going without a break, you stop enjoying your job. As I have said, much of our communication is non-verbal. Your exhaustion sends a message that you are uninterested. And that definitely you don’t want to be disturbed.
Worse, discipline problems in the library will increase. Students who are at loose ends because they didn’t think it a good idea to ask for assistance can get into trouble quickly. Then there are those who love disruptions and recognize a great opportunity to set you off. Usually, you are able to distract them and prevent most problems. But not when you are in overload.
Yes, when you get back to your usual helpful demeanor, people begin approaching you. But if you spend too much time in that harried place, you may find fewer teachers dropping by to see you and ask questions. Students will not risk a rebuff. What you need to do is recharge.
You will have to focus on high priorities. Classes must be taught, but you can scale them down. At the elementary level, instead of a major lesson, consider having a coloring day, and join the kids. More and more adults are discovering what a de-stresser that can be. And the kids can use that too. At the end of the class, discuss if they liked the activity and why.
In upper grades, let kids research on their own and walk among them seeing how they are doing. Ask them about what they are finding. Close the period by having a group discussion on how successful they were and what they can do differently. It’s a good self-assessment lesson.
For those of you who picked up the challenge of leadership, you may have been thinking that this is why you didn’t want to become a leader. It is too time-consuming. However, leaders must learn to set an example for others.
Among my favorite quotes is the one by Tom Peters, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” If a leader is seen as being exhausted and constantly in motion, no one will want to emulate them. You need to show the rewards of leadership.
So ask for help. It may take time before you can figure out just what you need, but you will also be giving someone the opportunity to see what leadership entails. Librarians don’t usually know how to delegate, and if you are accustomed to being in control, it’s hard to give some of that up. But the benefits are worth it.
Don’t overlook how your being overwhelmed affects your family and personal friendships. Even if you are able to be your usual wonderful self on the job, when you get home you are not anywhere near your best for them. Much as you love being a librarian, your work should not be the priority in your life.
You need to live a balanced life so you maintain your joy. Moments you chose not to spend with family and friends because you had “too much to do” can never be recaptured.
To rejuvenate look for small ways to procrastinate. There are several things I do. I play solitaire on my computer or spend time on Facebook. As long as I keep an eye on the clock, the “away time” lets me return with new energy.
My favorite downtime activity is taking a walk. It clears my head. I can figure things out so much better than when I am on the computer. Most of my blog ideas and how I am going to discuss them are figured out while I am walking. At the same time, I stop and talk to people walking their dogs or take note of the change in season and how the trees and plants are changing.
I also make sure to see my friends on a regular basis. I work at home primarily, but when my son comes over I stop what I am doing. I have learned the task will get done. It always does. And cherishing the joys in my life helps me do a better job in completing them.
What gives you joy? How are you living a balanced life?