Growing up I remember hearing my mom talk about having invisible tattoos on your hands. One hand said “NO” and the other said “I’ll get back to you.” The idea was whenever someone asked you to take something on, you chose a hand and responded with that tattooed statement. It was a way to try and learn to say “no” to people and to keep yourself from becoming too busy. And a way you could learn to take on only the things you cared about and turn down the rest.
Intellectually, I get it. It makes perfect sense. I can see how it works. In practice, however, well…I’m not always so good at the practice part.
To a certain extent I thrive on being busy. I like being busy. I just don’t like being too busy. It’s a fine line between sufficiently busy enough to keep myself from being bored (and to keep myself out of trouble) and from being so busy I’m too busy and stressed out.
Being too busy in my personal life is my own fault. I know that I need down time to recharge or I’m not very good company for anyone except my dog who doesn’t care if I’m cranky. [As my father said to me once in high school when I was at the need-to-recharge point: “you’re a real b*tch today” and I’m not lying, he really did.] So saying no in my personal life is my own responsibility, I know where that line is, and I have to mind the words that come out of my mouth to make sure I don’t cross it. When I need down time, I have to say no or no one has a good time.
This distinction between busy and too busy is usually made even more difficult by obligations, specifically work obligations. We all have work related obligations. Duties, tasks, assignments, projects, promotion requirements, professional service, etc. that we cannot say no to. We work. We have to work. My problem is when I have so many work obligations that I don’t have time to do any of the work related things I want to do because I will cross the line into the too busy zone.
I have a rule that don’t take work home with me, and I endeavor to not stay late at work (having a dog that needs to go out helps with this). I love my job, I love being a librarian, it’s part of my identity, an integral part of my identity to be honest, but it’s not my entire identity. My life must be more than work. I must have a balance or I will lose my mind (just ask me about grad school when I had no life outside of school…NOT pretty).
Well, I broke that rule the other day. I took work home with me. I’m not proud of this fact. I’m actually quite angry with myself about it. But I had a presentation to give and I wasn’t ready. Because there just aren’t enough hours in the day (especially during conference season). And I have too much pride (and sense of responsibility) to show up to give a presentation unprepared.
I want to be involved in my profession. I really really do. As much as I want to be on committees for all my professional organizations, I made the choice to only serve on one committee for one organization at a time. There may be a few months overlap just due to transitions, but only one committee for one organization at a time. Currently I’m involved with an ALA ALCTS division committee. This means that for at least another year I’m not involved with a NASIG committee. A year from now I’ll have to make a choice, continue for another 2 years on my current committee, or decide to become involved with a different one. I also choose to attend conferences because I get a lot out of them (I’ve waxed poetic on this several times before), despite that I’m behind for at least 2 weeks after I get back from being gone for 4 days (yeah, I know the math doesn’t add up…I can’t explain it, but it’s true).
At my institution I was just elected to the Librarians’ Assembly as a Board Member at Large. I’m really quite honored, one, to be asked to run, and two, that my colleagues elected me. Especially since I’m still new (I’ve only been here for just over 9 months now). It’s a great way to meet people and work with colleagues outside of my immediate purview. People I probably wouldn’t interact with otherwise. I did agree to serve (I could have said no), but being able to work with a variety of colleagues outside of my normal job duties is important to me. That and there are several interesting things the Assembly is doing right now including implementing a mentoring program for new-to-the-institution librarians, and as you all know, I’m a big fan of mentoring.
I’m trying to determine if my decision to add something I want to do to my obligatory collection of committees, projects, trainings, reports, and oh yeah, CATALOGING, is going to push me over that fine line into too busy. I know that for several big projects the bulk of the work will be done by the end of the summer, and the Assembly doesn’t meet during the summer, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out.
Or maybe it’s time to get those tattoos on my hand touched up.
In the mean time, I’m going back to the conference season insanity that always always elevates my stress level because I’m gone as much as I’m at work…which means things pile up…like the stack of records to review from my intern. Damn her for being so competent (not really, I’m actually really really glad she is, and really lucky she is, but you understand, right?).