Make progress on meaningful work

Hats.  So many hats.  It’s difficult to get things done with so many hats.  They are hard to manage individually and in concert with one another.  Every colleague that I’ve spoken to recently keeps saying how busy they are and that it seems like we are busier this semester than last.  And it’s the same thing I heard the semester before that, and the semester before that.  Honestly, I can’t pinpoint the last semester where this wasn’t a reoccurring phrase.

It’s quite apropos then that I keep picking up on words, phrases, articles, and news stories that deal with productivity.  Why productivity? Because even though I may be busy, I don’t feel like I’m making progress on meaningful work  – library work, that is.

And thus, as a librarian and information hoarder, I decided to (surprise!) research what I could do about this problem.

First, I needed a vocabulary.  There’s apparently many words that I can use in talking about productivity.  Some words are good, some not so much:

  • Busy work: The work that seems to fill your day, and then you walk away feeling like you didn’t accomplish anything.
  • Meaningful work:  Opposite of busy work.  Work that impacts our lives, makes a difference, and gives an employee purpose.
  • White noise: Although great for sleeping in its typical definition, for our purpose it refers to superfluous information or duties that interrupt or otherwise distract a person from their important projects or primary goal.  White noise loves me.
  • Mutual purpose:  Great word – one I picked up from “Crucial Conversations.”  If you don’t share it, how does an organization move forward?
  • Multitasking: I can’t do it. Really.  Just ask the advisee who comes in and asks me a stream of questions while I flip through the university’s catalog.  They understand when I say “huh?” for the fifth time. Therefore, this word may remain in others’ vocab, but not mine.

While I could spend days learning jargon, but that seems counterproductive, so let’s move on.

Next, I need information.  How do others like me do it?

  • Productivity for Librarians: Yes, a book.  Did you expect something else from a librarian?  I will not buy said book, however; I will ILL it because I know how to stretch the proverbial dollar.
  • A Day in the Life:  Am I the only one who feels like I’m running in a million different directions simultaneously?  Apparently not.  And it doesn’t seem to matter if you go rogue and free-lance.

Whew! I feel better, but also a little more exhausted.  For me there’s a danger in looking at everyone else’s productivity – I start yearning to start new interesting projects like the ones I just read about.  Perhaps I should stop here.  I’ve already added 10 items to my to-do list, which seems counter productive.

Ok.  Last, I need to implement change.  Tools, please.

  • Don’t break the chain
  • Project management, please : Asana, Basecamp, Trello, oh my!  SCRUM – interesting, but really?  Couldn’t someone come up with a better name?
  • Outlook management? Not possible.  2913 items in my Inbox, and outside of dumping the whole thing, I can’t imagine taking days to organize it.
  • GTD – Getting Things Done – Is it really possible?  Let’s see if I can get one step closer by stopping here…

Now that I’ve blogged about being more productive, perhaps I should try these out.  I’ll get back to you in a few months and let you know how it all worked out.


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