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.