Making Peace with the 24 hour day—taking the good, the bad, and the haggis

by Alexis Rohlfing, former Head Editor, INALJ New Hampshire
previously published 2/19/14

Making Peace with the 24 hour day – taking the good, the bad, and the haggis

alexisr1I don’t know about you, but from time to time, I find myself suddenly faced with a time deficit. The 24 hours a day that used to do the trick simply don’t any more. Between work and home life, and all the nice “little things” that enrich both, there’s suddenly a lack of time. I find myself facing this conundrum on occasion, but a few weeks ago during ALA Midwinter, I found the issue thrown into sharp relief.

Working outside the library field, there isn’t much time to travel to a professional conference, particularly when it would involve time off of work. A few days before Midwinter, I received a chipper email that reminded me that even if I wasn’t in Philadelphia I could still be part of the action. Enter social media—great in theory, but in the reality of my Saturday? It was also Robbie Burns day, and my husband is nothing if not a fan of all things Scottish. We hadn’t ordered haggis, but there was a store nearby doing a presentation of the haggis, complete with kilted ensembles and a recitation of ‘Ode to a Haggis’—perfect for the lover of Scottish things looking for an excuse to wear his kilt.

Thing about haggis is that, boiled pudding that it is, it is done when it’s done and heaven help you if you try to eat it cold. I spent a morning pulling up websites, You Tube, Twitter, & Google + on a myriad of devices to no avail; there was no sound on the videos, the pages crashed when I tried to refresh them, and while I could get opinions on the latest crepes or cheese steak ‘wit wiz’ I couldn’t get a live stream of a webinar or live tweet of a lecture. Now it was crunch time—abandon family time, or abandon professional time.

I found myself fleetingly wishing for more than 24 hours in a day. After all, if there was more time, I could find a way to do both things right? Obviously, wishing does not make it so, and there is no way for me to know for sure, but something tells me that even with more hours in a day, I would not have found the balance that allowed me to both participate live in a distance event and enjoy the personal life that I value.

So what’s a librarian to do?

For one thing, where there is social media participation, there’s an archive. Live streams are usually posted on you tube for later viewing, hash tags are searchable, and networking over distance will happen if you work at it, synchronous or asynchronous. Is it the same? No. But depending on what you are looking for in your distance experience, it might work.

From the broader perspective of work/life balance, there are going to be days where you have to choose one over the other. I have worked on more than one weekend in the hopes that my work would lead me toward my chosen information professional path. In the end, it comes down to planning and organization. I keep multiple checklists and schedules, and between the two, most days get by on just the 24 hours that are on offer.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, let me offer a few suggestions:

  • Goal setting—not just for those long term goals, but short and medium term as well. These goals ultimately form a timeline. For example, if you’ve set a goal of attending a professional conference, you can block that time out and start to plan around it. There may be other things that you cannot do because you’re focused on your goal, but if you’ve marked it out from the onset, you can make sure that you keep to your goal, and that you have set yourself mentally for what needs to be done to accomplish it.
  • Get a calendar (or 2, or 12)—I’m not ashamed to admit that I currently keep three calendars, and two ‘to do list’ methods. For work, there’s the outlook calendar. For home, there’s the Google calendar. And then there’s the cheery Mickey Mouse calendar that stares at me every Monday through Friday that shows me both work and home, and which I add appointments to throughout the day in case I’m worried I’ll forget something. I have a to do list on my phone, and an ever growing cadre of sticky notes on my desk arranging the task I need to complete. So far, its worked for me. If you are that blessed soul that only needs a single calendar or can keep it all in your head? Don’t feel like you have to adopt a different strategy (and also? TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.) If you’ve discovered your favorites method(s) of scheduling? Keep to it! If you haven’t? Check out a few articles and find your method. Just don’t let it slip by. Just like a good budget or a shopping list can keep you on track, so can a good scheduling method.
  • Know you can’t do everything and that’s ok—You are only human, and there are still a set number of hours in a day. There will be things that have to be prioritized and de-prioritized. Just make sure that your time allotment matches your priorities. Don’t tell yourself that you really, truly are ok with missing a family wedding to attend a day long business meeting when you’ll be heartbroken in reality. Conversely, don’t carry guilt for not attending a family event when you couldn’t get the time or would have had to give up a truly amazing work opportunity.
  • When life throws offal at you, make haggis—ok, the main ingredients of haggis are not for the faint of heart, but the end result is actually pretty good! If you find yourself facing a lot of awful circumstances, or even a set of mediocre circumstances, never underestimate what you can add to make something good.

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