ON LIBRARIES: Being Resilient

The last nine to ten months have presented most of us with unprecedented levels of stress. As each month passes it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain our energy and motivation. Resilience is necessary for survival, and with so many counting on us it’s vital that we develop ours as much as we can. A few weeks ago I blogged on this topic. I think it deserves reviewing, especially as we move into the holidays.

Merriam-Webster defines resilience as:

1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress

2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

While the second definition is the one that most logically applies, the first has a strong connection as well.  I certainly feel my body has been compressed by being emotionally battered on nearly every level. Whether it’s news reports, social media, or hearing from friends and family, life can seem bleak with only the hope of a vaccine soon-to-come that seems a light at the end of the tunnel.

Despite all the negatives, it is my belief you can always find some positives in difficult situations and times.  Building resilience won’t make problems disappear, but it will help you manage them. By working on becoming more resilient, we develop or add skills and capacities we can use even when we emerge from the overpowering presence of COVID-19.

The Mayo Clinic offers six techniques on the subject in Resilience: Build Skills to Endure Hardship. I like the word “endure.”  It’s a reminder that we are in an ongoing cycle.  No matter how good we are today, we must get up tomorrow and do it again.  You might find their tips familiar, but it’s important to keep them in mind so you keep working at resilience.

Get connected – Isolation is damaging to mental health and therefore resilience.  Zoom meetings in and of themselves are not enough of a connection.  Your PLN on social media can be an outlet to talk about challenges and get supportive feedback.  Having an opportunity to help someone else who is struggling will also bolster your own resilience.

Take time to make phone calls. It is not as good as speaking to someone face-to-face, but it brings you closer because it’s one-to-one.  If you need to, schedule the calls to ensure you make the connection.  Reach out to family, friends, and colleagues who live alone.  The stress is likely heavier on them.

Make every day meaningful – Many have noted how the days blur, one into the next. Try to distinguish the days and look for things that might add something special. It doesn’t need take long. It could be that call you make, making a special dessert or other treat, or having dinner delivered.

Keep track of what you accomplished.  You don’t want your achievements to dissolve in the blur of days.  Record them digitally or on paper in a “success journal.”  It will remind you of how much you got done.  If you record professional successes, you can use it to update your principal on what you have been doing.

Learn from experience – You have faced tough times in the past. At the time it seemed insurmountable. How did you get through it? What skills and practices helped you? Who supported and encouraged you? The Mayo Clinic recommends journaling as a reminder of how you succeeded then.  For me, the mantra, “I will get through this.  I always have” is empowering.  Find a way that works for you to keep those previous successes in mind.

Remain hopeful – I have a painting in my office that says “There is always hope.” It reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poem entitled “Hope.” The first stanza is often in my head these days,

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Hope never stops, and we need to hold onto hope.  Nothing stays the same.  This will change. That is my hope – and belief.

Take care of yourself – You know this.  You heard it countless times before the pandemic, and it’s been repeated even more since.  But knowing something and acting on it are two different things.  It’s easy to postpone self-care.  Don’t. Practice the care you know works for you – or try something you’ve been thinking about.

Be pro-active – This is about not ignoring the challenges and problems around you. When you can identify them, you can make a plan and take action. Action helps build resilience. This also means recognizing and accepting when you are struggling so you can seek the help you need. 

And how does all of this connect with your role as a librarian? We all know that we can’t be there for others in a lasting way until we take care of ourselves. If you make some or all of these ideas a part of your life, you’ll feel your resilience – and your ability to recover your size and shape – strengthen. Know that you won’t have the same strength every day. Some days will get to you. When they do, go back to the tools that work when you’re ready and remember there is always hope.

ON LIBRARIES – Five H’s To Live By

As the school year continues with fits and starts, you and your colleagues may struggle to keep up with each new schedule as it emerges. By focusing on Five H’s – head, hands, heart, health, and habit, you can keep your balance in a world that continues to tilt. The first four come from the 4-H program. The fifth is from me.

Head – At the beginning of each month do a big picture scan. What is working?  What isn’t?  Based on what you are seeing in the world, your state, your town, your school, what seems to be the direction things are heading? 

Review your Mission and Vision Statements. Does your Mission still reflect what you are working to achieve?  On a daily/weekly basis, how much of your time furthers your Mission? Is your Vision still describing your aspirations for the future of the library program? Based on your review, you may want to tweak these statements. 

Using this big picture awareness you can choose how you can leverage your skill set to meet the upcoming needs of your students, teachers, and administrators. The pandemic has changed how we do things and therefore what is necessary to accomplish them. This is an opportunity. The more ways you can anticipate and address what their requirements are and will be, the more people will rely on and value you.

Hands – Put your thoughts into action. Create a plan to meet these identified needs. Have a rough timeline for accomplishing it and remember you may need to adjust details to account for changes. Make certain to select communication channels to reach your audience effectively then inform stakeholders of what you are doing and with whom. Be succinct. For example, don’t send wordy newsletters, no matter how nice they my look. Everyone is overloaded. Don’t add to it. If the recipient doesn’t see the value of the communication, it is pointless to send it. 

Look for sources of help. Sometimes students can be of assistance in these projects. Knowing they are doing “real life work” engages them. And they will also learn a great deal in the process, and you will have a new collaboration to share.

Heart – Show caring. I’ve written about this a lot during the last several months, but we continue to see that little things mean a lot. If you are physically back in school, drop small notes on teachers’ desks. Print out a funny cat or dog picture and sharing it a place people walk by. Social media is not the only place to share the fun. If you are remote, send the note or picture as a message.

Congratulate colleagues (and students) on successes and be a listening ear when things aren’t going well. Use your displays to send messages of kindness and caring. And, as I wrote in my October 19 blog, remember to say, “Please,” Thank you,” and “You’re Welcome.” 

Health – Self-care is an ongoing topic and an important one. Your health is vital to your ability to do everything else. Make sure you are making time to guard it. While you are wearing a mask and washing your hands, there are other health basics you may be overlooking. People are joking about the COVID 20, referring to the pounds gained during the pandemic, but it’s something to be aware of. Healthy eating keeps your immune system up. Getting enough sleep affects your emotional intelligence.

Regular exercise is another contributor to overall health. It doesn’t have to take long. There are many YouTube videos with 5-minute workouts, especially good for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere where the weather is getting colder. Keep some weights in your desk if you are in school. Pausing for five minutes to take care of yourself will get you back at work with a more positive attitude – and it will help keep you in shape.

And don’t forget to hydrate! Wearing masks can make remembering this a challenge. Set a timer on your phone if it helps to remind you. That leads us directly to – 

Habit – Good and bad habits are the things we do unconsciously. They can improve our capacity to get things done or they can sabotage us. Think of one bad habit you might want to eliminate and one good habit you would like to gain.

When does the bad habit show up?  Why? What is something you can do to distract yourself from it?  What could/should you do when the habit shows up? In noticing what triggers the habit, you are more able to replace it with the diversion you think will work. The more often you do it, the more likely the habit is to shrink. It may never go away, but it will be more controllable.

When do you want to practice the good habit? Set an alarm to remember or find a positive trigger. Frequency builds habits. Don’t beat yourself up if you skip a day when you’re developing something new. You will succeed if you just keep at it. Knowing your why and making it a priority will also support your success.

At the end of the week, reflect on what you have accomplished. Did the “Five H’s” help?  Was there one that was especially helpful? Then do what you can to keep going with it. Was one challenging? Look for ways to get support (change is easier with a group)  or make a new plan. Then your next week will be even better.

ON LIBRARIES: When Everything is a Priority

Time management starts with focusing on your priorities, but what do you do when everything is a priority?  You always had a full plate, but these days that plate is piled high – and more seems to be added regularly. When you have so much to do, it can be nearly impossible to know where to start. You might start with the one you notice first, or you might choose the hardest task or the simplest one. Yes, you’ll get through everything eventually, but is your approach the most efficient?

Breaking the to-do list down can be a good beginning. First, divide what you need to do into two groups: personal and professional.  Divide the professional into those directly connected to your library, ones required by your school, and then your additional commitments such as course work, professional development you are doing, responsibilities for your work in your state school library association, and any other related tasks.

For your library tasks and those for your school, choose the ones that support your mission first, that way you know you’re supporting that important goal. For the other professional responsibilities, evaluate where you might need to adjust deadlines and/or get help.

And don’t forget the personal items that need your attention. Those are another kind of priority and you need to allot time for this as well. Be sure you are giving this some time each day, particularly making time for yourself regularly.

To help you determine what to do first, consider the recommendations of Naphtali Hoff in his post on How to Identify the Most Important Tasks. His six-step approach to dealing with your MITs (Most Important Tasks) – with some of my tweaks and comments — should help you deal with your overloaded plate.

  1. What are the most 2-3 important things that I need to do today? Good question. If you identify these and complete them, the result is a tremendous sense of accomplishment. But how do you identify them? Choose one of your groups. Look for tasks that have an upcoming deadline.  Are they of high importance?  Are any of them tasks you enjoy doing?  Will the professional task promote your Mission?

Naftali also suggests you take the Pareto Principle into consideration. In brief, the Pareto Principle, named for the Italian economist who first observed the 80/20 relationship in many places in life, is used to note that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. Applied here, it means that 80% of your outcomes result from 20% of your work.  You want to invest your time first where it will bring the greatest result.

  1. What is the task’s value or ROI? ROI means – return on investment. What will you get back from the time and effort you spend? Related to the Pareto Principle, look at your list and determine what will bring you the greatest return on the investment of your time. Also look where completing some tasks may make another task easier.  These connections will support your success.

As you determine a task’s ROI, you must consider advocacy. How will others know of your accomplishment of the task?  It’s always been true, but as budget belts tighten again, this is truer than ever.  You do great work, but if no one knows about it, it won’t make a difference in the long run.

  1. Is it related to your goals? Is it part of a strategic plan you have created? How does it relate to your Mission? Other than things aministorators have directed you to do , your answer to this question should set your priorities for what task you should do next. The more distantly related – the lower the priority. These are the things that should be relegated to the end of the day or week, if/when there is still time.
  1. Is it a task that you’ve been thinking about for some time? I really like this one. If it’s been on your mind, it’s worth considering. And this includes your personal tasks.

And don’t discard it or put it off because you have other more well-defined items on your list.  It most likely connects to a passion of yours.  Bringing it to fruition will give you a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment and will likely spur you on to deal with the other tasks you have. (That gives it a high ROI!)

  1. Have you been putting it off for too long? This is the flip side of #4. There are always things on our list that get moved to the next day and then the next. Why have you been putting it off?  Do you dread doing it? If so, why?  Is it very time consuming? Is it boring? Think about way to break it into small steps and focus on those. Does it take you out of your comfort zone?  It can be hard, but these can be the tasks that help us to grow the most. Turn to your PLNs for advice on how to accomplish it.  With support, you are more likely to tackle it and come out on top.

6.      Is it a task that will free you up to work on your real MITs? Sometimes you do need to complete small jobs so you have a large enough block of time to work on what is really important. Hoff suggests setting an artificial deadline to complete these.  I love artificial deadlines.  They create a cushion, so I don’t miss the real ones when life “happens.”

The Hoff article didn’t cover two additional things I consider vital.

Know the best time of day for you to tackle the tasks on your list.  He does refer to the things you need to do, but when?  For me, it is the first thing in the morning.  If it is something that has a deadline (even an artificial deadline) I can’t look at email or anything else until I get the highest priority task of the day finished.

Don’t forget to apply these questions to the tasks you put in the Personal group.  You must make time for family, friends, and for yourself. There’s a huge ROI when we honestly take care of ourselves. Laundry can wait another day. Taking time for the personal will make you happier which will likely make your professional tasks easier.

ON LIBRARIES – A Don’t-Do List

How long is your to-do list?  Whatever system you use to keep track of your ever-growing lists of tasks – both personal and professional – it has probably gotten too long.  And despite all you are doing, you probably feel you are still behind, which adds to the strain of an already grim situation. Something has to give. You don’t have to get the virus to get sick.  Stress takes a toll on the body.

To manage the situation differently, you need to acknowledge two factors that are making things difficult. First is the dramatic change to your workday. It is more complicated to teach and collaborate online, and you may have more meetings than you used to, sometimes daily. This, along with requests from teachers and parents, keep coming. The second factor is the pandemic itself. Television and social media are bringing continual updates, frightening stories, and conflicting information all mixed into a divisive political climate. You fear for yourself, your family, and your friends and you have the challenges of the new schedules of the people with whom you are at home.

Since it will be awhile before either of these factors change, it may be time to find some things you can stop doing so that you can feel successful going through this time.  The Ebling Group blog recommends Three Things to Stop Doing This Week. Targeted to the business world, the advice holds true for us as well.

Stop Sitting All Day; The medical profession has said that sitting all day is dangerous. Without your usual commuting time and reducing your regular shopping and errands, you are walking much less. You brain and your body needs the stimulus of movement.  For me and many others, walking is a refresher. I’ve even taken to doing laps around my house on bad weather days. It clears the mind, opens up ideas, and focuses you on something else besides your tasks and your fear. (Although you should consider having a mask on if you will be passing people.) Fitbits give users reminders, or you can set an alarm on your phone.

Stop Making Every Meeting a Zoom Call: Zoom and other meeting platforms have been invaluable in allowing us to get our jobs done.  We can stay in communication with students, teachers, administrators and parents while having the added benefit of seeing familiar faces.  But several articles have made note that one Zoom meeting after another is even more draining than a series of face-to-face meetings.  It may be following the various faces or finding everyone on a large call or underlying worry about how you look or sound since you can see yourself as well as others. When possible look for ways to limit these meeting/calls. Obviously, there are ones that can’t be changed, but reach out to your PLNs to see what alternatives are being used to reduce your time on Zoom.  And see if you can get up and walk between calls.

Stop Holding on to Your Original Plan: What did you imagine you would be doing when you were told schools were closing and you would be teaching online?  Whether it sounded scary or like something you could handle, it probably hasn’t turned out the way you thought. And remember when you thought you would have a chance to get to those tasks around the house you had put off because you didn’t have the time.? Yeah, most of us aren’t getting those done either.. None of this could be anticipated – neither the workload nor the emotional toll. In addition to everything else we don’t know, we can’t predict how productive we will be on a given day. Some days you’ll make progress and others will be a battle for every inch. Do what you can to be unceasingly kind to yourself no matter what.  You’re doing your best even as your best changes from day to day (or hour to hour).

I’m not sure of a lot right now, but I do know librarians have flexibility and resilience. We use both these characteristics all the time.  We adjust and we persevere.  Just remember to put these three things on your Don’t-Do Lists.  Keep making time for yourself, move, and breathe.

ON LIBRARIES: Treat Yourself

Respect contributes to creating the safe, welcoming space our students–and teachers—need.  But it’s also a word we need to take to heart for us.  Now that so many are on break, it’s time to give ourselves the gift of respect.  What does that look like? To help you–and me—not lose this precious downtime to the holiday scramble, I have devised an acronym to remind us of some important things we need to do for us.

The seven steps that spell out RESPECT are not meant to go in any particular order. We just need to be mindful of all of them, so we don’t drop any out.  Here is how I plan to RESPECT myself, and I hope you do the same.

R is for Read, Relax, Rejuvenate

I cheated here with three words, but they are all related.  As librarians, we always read, but much of it is for the job.  Now is the time to read for yourself.  Start digging into the books on your night table.  Give yourself time to read what you want to read. Immerse yourself in some other. Relax means allowing yourself to sleep late, stay up late watching a television show, or binge watch something you haven’t had time to see. Permit yourself this free time without fretting about what you could be doing that is more productive. Rejuvenate is about doing something that gets you excited again about your job. This maybe the time to listen to an archived webinar you haven’t had the time to get to or check out a Twitter Chat. Perhaps you might contribute to a thread on your PLN.

E is for Engage

Be fully present with your family and friends. Too often, our minds our only half there when we are with our family. We are busy thinking of what we have to do the next.  We are missing the most important moments in our lives and that drains us, making us less enthusiastic (another “E” word) about our jobs.  Listen to what others are saying without thinking about your response or anything else.  It’s good practice for your job, and it helps build relationships at home. We count on our families to love and understand us, but if we always put our work first, we lose an important part of who we are. Now is the time to rebuild those connections and hopefully continue it throughout the year.

S is for Self-Care

Much has been written about this.  It’s part of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), but we have a tendency to overlook it.  Take time to pamper yourself.  Get a massage or facial.  Take a walk (one of my favorites).   Buy yourself flowers for your office. Go to a favorite store, whether it’s for stationery, crafts, or clothes, and buy something just for you. See a movie. And yes, reading falls into this category for a lot of us.

P is for plan

Do this early or late in your vacation so you don’t have to think about it at other times. Reflect (yup, another “R” word) on how your school year has been going. What worked?  What could have been done better?  What isn’t working at all? What can you differently?  Where do you want to take the library program next? You have some time during vacation to create a plan that will power your program for the rest of the school year. Give yourself a specific time to do this so it’s not on your mind for your whole break.

E is for Eating Well

How many of you eat lunch every day? So many of us grab something -or skip it- because we have a class to teach. Holidays may not be the best time for healthy eating, but it’s worth trying to incorporate getting enough fruits and vegetables into your diet, hydrating, and not going much over three hours without eating. Of course, it can also include eating out at a special restaurant, which means it doubles as self-care.

C is for celebrate.

Acknowledge yourself.  Write down all your accomplishments. Include small successes such as a students thanking you for a book you found for them.  Glory in the big successes—those programs the kids loved and which attracted attention.  Did you finally get a teacher who was a holdout to collaborate with you?  Did the principal make a positive comment on your program?  If you don’t write them down and take time to recall them, they will slip away.  You will be a better leader and librarian if you make time to celebrate your achievements.

T is for Try Something New

This is a good time to explore (another E word) a new hobby or a variant on one you have. Look for an exercise you might like and therefore enjoy doing regularly.  Maybe it’s time for a new recipe or to check out a video game recommended by your students. We’re lifelong learners too.

Give yourself the RESPECT you deserve.  Reflect and act on your priorities.  Enjoy your time off fully. Socialize with friends and family. Be positive about yourself and your accomplishments. Explore new possibilities. Connect with others – consider sending snail mail messages. Thank those who have helped you grow and learn.

Happy Holidays.

ON LIBRARIES: Positive Self-Care

Last week we talked about knowing your priorities. This week we move on to self-care. You are your most important priority because if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you will be doing a poor job with everything else. Maybe you can hold out for a while, but eventually, it’s going to catch up with you. Making the change is going to be hard work.

It’s going to be hard because you are likely resistant to doing it.  There is so much on your plate demanding your attention and the societal norm is to put others first. Even those priorities I discussed last week—your family and friends—can take time away from you.  Finding balance is going to be key.

Recognizing how it affects the bottom line, the business world (guided by psychologists) is working to make their people aware of the importance of practicing positive self-care.  Schools are also dealing with this as they move into Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), but SEL is focused on students. You need to develop your own practices that ensure you are taking care of yourself. 

Elizabeth Scott offers The Top 10 Self-Care Strategies for Stress Reduction. Most are obvious and can be found in many places.  Implementing them, as I said, is the challenge.  Here are her ten with my comments:

  1. Get Enough Sleep – Easier said than done. If 8 hours is out of the question, go for 7. And develop a sleep routine as you would for your children. Have everything ready for tomorrow so you don’t fret about what you have to do in the morning. Read a relaxing book.  I love HEA’s (happily ever after), so I know my main characters will be together by the end no matter how bleak things look. Also, trying to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekend, can be beneficial.
  2. Maintain Proper Nutrition—This one is also going to need a plan. Stress makes you grab for the unhealthy snacks (as Weight Watchers keeps reminding me). Part of your positive self-care is creating a plan that results in healthy eating most days – nobody is or should be perfect. For some of you, this may mean making dinners for the week on Sunday. For others, it’s a matter of planning breakfast and lunch and keeping healthy snacks at work.
  3. Exercise regularly – My personal goal is to walk 12,000+ steps 3-5 times a week which is a huge difference from when I started years ago on an exercise bicycle and all I could do was 5 minutes. Do what you can to choose an exercise you like doing. This could take some time to identify, but if you don’t like it, you won’t continue.
  4. Maintain Social Support –This is what I discussed last week. Your family and friends are not only a priority but are also part of your positive self-care. Make time for getting together.
  5. Find Hobbies—For me, it’s always been reading and I’ve written about how I enjoy my games of solitaire on the computer. I find it’s a good break as long as I don’t overindulge. Walking, much to my surprise, has become a hobby which is true of any sport you like. But it could be yoga, gardening, coloring in the new coloring books, scrapbooking, knitting, or whatever suits your fancy.
  6. Pamper Yourself – I love this one. I joined a local chain (Massage Envy) to ensure I schedule a facial or massage once a month.  Then there’s manicures and pedicures and other spa treatments that you can do at a salon or at home.
  7. Keep Your Mind Sharp – An easy one for librarians. Scott encourages you to see stress areas as a challenge—what I call a “chopportunity.” I have been disciplining myself in reading one article a day in one of my professional journals.  I always end up with new ideas and ways of looking at things (and new blog post ideas!).
  8. Have the Right Attitude – This is all about Mindset. What you think about something conditions how you react which causes either an up or down spiral. You are in control of how you think, and frequently the only thing you can control in a situation is how you respond to it. Take a moment to look for ways to make it work for you.
  9. Process Your Emotions – Be honest about how you are feeling. For example, suppressing anger doesn’t make it go away and instead causes an increase in stress. Acknowledge it. Consider where it is coming from and how you can either deal with it or change your attitude about it. Journaling, which could also be a hobby, can be a way of processing your emotions and so can talking to friends, which connects to maintaining social support.
  10. Maintain a Spiritual Practice–Having belief system that grounds you whether it is a religion, spirituality, meditation, or a firmly rooted philosophy is a resource you can turn to when feeling stressed. This sort of foundational belief can offer strength, grounding, or a place to return to when, once again, stress levels get high and life is out of balance.

And as a reminder of how easy it is to fall back into your bad old ways, see Cammy Pedroja’s 7 things that are good examples of self-care, and 7 things that aren’t.

Remember Positive Self-care is you focused on you to ensure you are in the best possible frame of mind to take care of others as well as do what needs to be done. If this is new for you, I recommend picking two from the list and integrate them into your daily life – maybe one that sounds easy and one that seems like a stretch.  Once you feel you have incorporated them into your life, pick two more and see how it goes.

 

ON LIBRARIES: What Are Your Priorities

The last section of Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option is called “Maintaining Joy.”  I discuss ways you can keep yourself fulfilled. The four chapters build on each other, starting with “Writing and Presenting” to prove your value to yourself and others, followed by chapters: “Delegating” so you don’t do it all; “Giving Back” which gives you more than you gave; and finally, “The Gift of Time” which is what I want to focus on today.

I can hear you saying, your schedule is packed. You don’t have time. I’ve been there. I understand and it wasn’t until I made it important to live my priorities that anything was able to change.

I spent most of my adult life being task-oriented. I loved my job as a librarian and worked hard at it. It was important, and it deserved all that attention. What I didn’t see was my beliefs and actions were in opposition. I would tell you my family was my first priority, but that’s not what my behaviors indicated. As a result, even when I was present with my family, my mind was somewhere else. I missed a lot.

I eventually realized what I was doing to myself and the people I cared most about. I developed a mantra that I kept repeating, “Everything will get done. It always does.”  And it did. If it was a priority and important, I did get it done. Sure, some of the lesser tasks got pushed down and some minor ones never got done. But no one noticed anything lacking. By contrast, I truly enjoyed my time with my family and friends.

Today, while I am nominally retired, which is to say I no longer work in a school library, most of you are aware that I teach an online course, write books for school librarians, and am active in my state association and at ALA/AASL. And I still make time for what is truly important. I have a monthly lunch date with a friend. I take long walks 3-5 times a week. I shut my computer off at 6 p.m. When my son drops in, I stop what I am doing—even if I am in the middle of writing a blog. I spend the evening with my husband. Somehow, it all works. My life is richer, and most importantly, not only am I happier but I can see how my change has had a positive effect on those I care about.

You need to devote time to what matters most. You can fit in a massage once a month. You are worth it. You can take the weekend off to be with your family and not worry/think about Monday. You can do what I did – find a mantra, a saying, even a song that reminds you to look at your priorities and schedule your time accordingly.

The business world agrees with me. In an online article entitled 5 Myths of Work-Life Balance Debunked by an Entrepreneurial Dad,  James Sudakow speaks to dads with big jobs who “lament” missing important events in their kids’ lives and other family times. Their work-life balance has become seriously skewed toward work. As the title indicates, he rebuts five myths.

  1. You won’t kill your career by setting firm boundaries between work and life. The tasks will get done. I find they get done more efficiently and better because I come to them refreshed with a positive attitude. Even if I have to scramble as a deadline approaches, that mindset powers me to complete what’s on my plate and give it my best. How many days are you staying late? It shouldn’t be more than one a week unless you are in a new position. Even then, three days is the outside limit.
  2. You can put family first. Not just “can” but “must.” You can’t say family is your priority if that’s not how you are choosing to spend your valuable time. Since we all have the same 24 hours in a day, you need to prioritize more honestly. I find if I am just focusing on tasks, I am also likely to allow more time-wasters to creep in from checking emails too many times to playing solitaire on the computer.
  3. “Work-life blend/integration” is not the only viable solution (despite what many say). Here Sudakow refers to allowing work to “blend” into your life. He says it’s better to compartmentalize. I agree, although there are occasions while my attention is focused on my family or my own rejuvenation activities, I come up with an answer to a work-related question that was troubling me. It most often happens while I am walking, but it has also occurred while getting a massage. Jot it down – go back to your family.
  4. Work-life balance is not a 50:50 proposition. No one is suggesting you divide out your day evenly between work obligations and family time. It’s what’s most important now that helps set the balance. Some days you need to be at your kid’s game and watch the whole thing without working on your cell or laptop. Other days you may only be fully present at dinner. If family is at the much lower end most days, you are not balancing well.
  5. Work-life balance comes down to hard choices we haven’t forced ourselves to make before. The discussion of the other four de-bunked myths shows how true this is. To stay on course, remind yourself you will never get back time lost with family – and friends. The work never goes away. Which memories do you want to look back on—time spent with your family or the hours spent working?

And remember to make yourself a priority. Positive Self-Care, which I’ll be talking more about this next week, is critical to your long-term success. You are what matters most, because if you don’t feel good about yourself, if you are not taking care of yourself, you will be drained, frustrated, and frankly cranky and I know that’s not what you want to bring to your library program or your teachers. Take a little time this week to notice how you’re using your time and where your being guided by your to-do list over your priorities.