It seems appropriate that I spent part of Saturday, the day that we set our clocks back an hour and returned to standard time (goodbye, sun! <sniff>), at the Worcester Public Library, picking out some books on time management. I think it’s a pretty lame idea, time management, and most writing on it is shallow and trite, however I did come across one that resonated with me. Laura Vanderkam’s, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, is, so far, terrific. What I like about it is Vanderkam’s premise that we have a tendency to think we’re a lot busier than we really are. If you know me or have read some of my other blog posts (both here and on my home blog), you’re aware of the fact that I find the “I’m so busy” and “I’m too busy” and “I just have SO MUCH to do” laments of this day and age overused.
The badge of
honor busy-ness is worn out on me, mostly because I just can’t believe that I’m the only person in the world who, most of the time, isn’t busy. At least I don’t feel that way. Busy, that is. I have a full life and enjoy pretty much all of it. Like most folks, I have places to be and things to do and deadlines to meet (sometime several at one time), but I rarely say that I’m “busy”. Granted, that’s a conscious act. I stopped using the word awhile back when it was used, one time too many, by a friend as an excuse not to have lunch. I thought to myself, “Why don’t people just come right out and say that they have something else that they’d rather do?”
Thus, I was overjoyed when I found a like-minded spirit within the first few pages of 168 Hours. Just as I suggest to individuals trying to lose weight and become more active to keep a diet and exercise journal, Vanderkam suggests tracking your time to really see where and how you’re spending it. I’m a BIG fan of tracking. It’s proven the most effective way to lose weight (and maintain weight loss) that we have. Diet recall isn’t all that great. The same holds true for time. What we think we ate and how we think we spent our time are often vastly different than the truth. Tracking helps us see the real picture.
As Vanderkam points out, we have 168 hours each week. That’s a lot of hours to fill. Am I really using them all? I started tracking today, so I’ll let you know what I find out in just a couple of weeks. If you want to join me, you can download free pdfs of Vanderkam’s time-keeping spreadsheets by signing up for her newsletter, and you can find her book at your local library or bookstore.
The other book that I borrowed is called Building & Running a Successful Research Business, by Mary Ellen Bates. Bates is well known in the world of business research and has written extensively on how to become an independent information professional. A lot of this particular book’s content falls outside of my current role as an informationist, but I checked it out so that I could look more closely at the chapters Are You a Potential Independent Info Pro?, Work and the Rest of Your Life (time management, again), and the sections on deliverables and entrepreneurship, in general. These topics are very much relevant to the work I’m doing and I felt I could learn a tip or two from reading them.
You might have guessed by now that managing my time and tasks as an informationist is the biggest struggle I’ve faced so far. The rest of my job did not go away when I became a part of the research team. I’ve been able to pass off a few things, but mostly I feel like the 10 hours each week that I’m to give to the research study are just 10 more hours added on to my work week. [Note: My decision to track my time is the first step in figuring out (a) if this is a valid feeling, and (b) where my priorities really lie, as depicted by how I spend my time.]
In Bates’ book, I came across a page with a box titled, “What About the Home Front?” (p. 46) Though she’s directing her thoughts here towards independent professionals striking out on their own, I couldn’t help but see the ties between the literal “home front” and the “home front” that is one’s library. As more and more librarians move out of the library, becoming embedded in different projects and centers, many of the questions Bates suggests that the independent professional ask are the same as those that library directors and informationists need to ask themselves as they move in this direction. Replace “spouse or partner” with “administration and colleagues,” “household chores” with “daily responsibilities,” and you’ll see what I mean:
- Is my spouse or partner fully supportive of this venture?
- Does my spouse or partner respect the time I spend on my business? Does he or she understand that I have regular hours that I work?
- What household chores can we outsource?
Additionally, I need to heed Bates’ call and make an assessment of my own abilities to set boundaries for myself, stick to them, set the expectation that others stick to them, and learn how to deal with distractions (see another book that I checked out, 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman, for thoughts on this).
This week (Wednesday and Thursday), we are welcoming the other recipients of the NIH informationist grants for two days of learning and sharing. On Wednesday, we’ll host a day-long professional development program for the region, focusing on the role of libraries and librarians in the research process, Embedded with the Scientist. Thursday, the informationists will gather for a morning of discussion, asking questions, and planning ways that we can support one another, as a cohort, in the future. The answers to the questions from the “home front” are ones I hope to hear from my colleagues. I wonder if they’re facing the same issues as I am, the same difficulties in trying to juggle tasks, and set and maintain boundaries. I wonder if their colleagues in their libraries are supportive of what they’re doing. I wonder if they have some helpful hints that I can take away and put to good use in my work.
I really look forward to finding out – and I’ll report back on the meeting at the end of the week.