We’re all in the same boat it seems—looming piles of professional reading that you’ll get to “someday,” schedules to create for staff and for upcoming programs—that sometimes it feels like there is too much to get done and not enough of you to go around!
Over the past decade in Children’s Services, especially when I’ve been managing a branch or a citywide program, I have definitely felt this way. So I would like to share two quick tips that I’ve found to be really helpful when I’ve felt like I’m on a treadmill going too fast that I can’t get off.
- The To Do List vs. Scheduling Appointments (spoiler alert—I’m pro scheduling appointments)
We all have a to-do list, right? And there is always that one thing (or more than one thing) that somehow seems to always be on the list week after week. As much as I love procrastination, and sometimes the anxiety it gives me gets me over the hump of getting started, this is not a great way to live day to day. While I still have a small to-do list that consists of small, easily completed tasks or reminders, I’ve started scheduling appointments for the things I noticed I was putting off over and over. Professional reading? There is an appointment on my calendar for 30 minutes of professional reading twice a week. This blog post? I scheduled an appointment to write it. By creating an appointment instead of just having it on an open-ended to-do list, I’ve carved out a time I’m committed to it. Give it a try on something you are putting off, and let me know in the comments how it worked for you.
- Using Your Energy to Your Advantage (i.e., set yourself up to win)
What does your energy level look like during the day? What time of day are you most productive? What times of day is it easier or harder for you to focus? For myself, I find that I’m most able to tackle tasks that require mental focus and creativity early in the day. If I need to write a blog post, if I need to create a program outline, etc., I create an appointment for myself between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. By the end of the day—by say 3:00 p.m.-ish—I find that it’s harder for me to focus; something that would take me 20 minutes at 9:00 a.m. takes well over an hour in the afternoon. So I try to arrange my day with focused tasks that require creativity early in the day. That book-shifting project? That’s definitely going to happen after 3:00 p.m., AND then there is the likelihood of kids and teens who want to help me. (Plus that is something I can easily go back to after being interrupted for homework help or finding just the right science project book). What about in your library? When are your busy hours? Early storytimes? Afterschool hours? When have you noticed that there is a block of uninterrupted time? When are you more likely to be busy answering questions and finding books? Try tracking the ebb and flow of your time for one week and see if you can identify patterns.
Those are two of the things I’ve learned over the years to help me not only be more productive, but that also help keep me sane when things get really busy. If you are interested in more tips from your ALSC colleagues, check out the upcoming webinars from the members of ALSC’s Managing Children’s Services Committee, with topics like Communication, Scheduling, Managing Financials, and Supervising: www.ala.org/alsc/edcareeers/profdevelopment/alscweb/webinars.
Rachel Fryd is the Young Adult Materials Selector at the Free Library of Philadelphia. In the past she has managed citywide programs and partnerships as the Youth Services Coordinator and managed a neighborhood library in West Philadelphia. She is currently a member of ALSC’s Managing Children’s Services Committee as well as YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee. She loves cheese, farmers markets, and pastries but hates broccoli.