Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

We’re halfway through the year and I ended the first half of 2019 on vacation in Hawaii. That also means I spent a couple of weeks wondering why I don’t live there. I may spend the next couple of weeks trying to suss out the answer to that question before daily drudgery sweeps over me like a wave that I didn’t quite catch because I suck at surfing.

I take responsibility seriously, so seriously that I frequently forget about being stupidly irresponsible, which is more fun. I tend to put off the fun stuff until the serious stuff is finished, except that there is always more serious stuff. I have to make room for the fun stuff, not wait for the perfect time to do it. That’s a hard lesson for me to grasp.

So I was pleasantly surprised how I was able to let vacation envelop me. Maybe that’s because of where I was vacationing. But I think that a lot of it had to do with getting the hang of letting things go. I wasn’t perfect: I still got my usual pre-travel jitters and I had a couple of anxious moments during the trip. But on the whole, I relaxed in a way that I hadn’t for a long time. It was great.

Then I got home and immediately fell back into a lot of bad habits. Oh well. More work to be done!

Your Energy Is Loud

There is this thing called #1000wordsofsummer. It’s the brainchild of Jami Attenberg and it encourages writers to write 1,000 words a day from June 17 to July 1. A friend of mine mentioned it on Twitter the other day and suddenly I’ve decided it’s a good idea to participate.

(Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean I’m writing 1,000 word blog posts every day for two weeks. Although it doesn’t not mean that…)

I’ve always loved to write and I have created a couple of outlets for myself to do it, but I am always trying to write more. Not necessarily because I want to broadcast it all for public consumption, but because I think it’s fun. I have thought about branching out more, and maybe this will give me the encouragement to do so.

Or I just come up with something that amuses me and no one else because only I get all my in-jokes.

First Train Into the Big World

I spend a lot of time doing small little tasks to make myself feel productive. But I rarely stop to think if those tasks are helping me accomplish bigger goals or consider whether or not they are necessary. I do them because I’ve always done them.

As my work and home duties are evolving in considerable ways, I’ve become more conscious of how much stuff I do just for the sake of doing it. Keeping the work journal should help me sort everything out, but I would need to sit down and look at past journals to do analysis and my goodness, do I have time for that, look how busy I am, my journal clearly says so!

You can see how I walk around in circles. Thinking I don’t have time to plan my day or my week and so forth because I am too busy with all my day-to-day duties only distracts me from prioritizing what actually needs to get done.

Productivity gurus commonly recommend scheduling time in your calendar time to do something that is detail-oriented or requires high levels of concentration. It has the external effect of letting co-workers know not to bother you and the internal effect of giving you the space to complete important tasks.

Of course, it does require you to adhere to your calendar. Whenever I’ve done this in the past, I’ve gotten my notifications, dismissed them, then keep chugging away on the minutiae I was engrossed in.

I’d like to think publishing a post about this would motivate me to do it, but I also know I’ve written about it before, then not followed up because I had fallen off the wagon and was embarrassed to admit it. There’s no shame in having trouble breaking bad habits, so long as I own up to my mistakes and try again. That’s how I learn.

By the way, I am using a lyric from a snarky song as a headline for something sincere. I’ve got layers.

Coming Up for Air

The past couple of months have been ridiculously intense. Part of the reason why is public knowledge, and you’ll know when the dust has settled from that when I update my LinkedIn profile.

I’ve also had to deal with some more personal issues, and I’m not so much waiting for dust to settle as slowly understanding that I am standing in fog and occasionally there will be a thunderstorm. But mostly things are just pleasantly misty.

I have to stay on top of a lot of things right now, and writing it all down makes it seem daunting. I started to adapt the project management techniques I use at work to manage it all, with little success yet. There are kinks to work out, because the tools and formats I use at work don’t necessarily mesh cleanly at home.

But I also accept that no matter how much honing I do, it’s a perpetual work in progress. There is no one perfect way to do anything, no one weird trick. Something works for awhile, but a small adjustment or even a major overhaul may be necessary. For now, if I can learn how to keep all the plates spinning, I will be doing okay.

It’s also nice to have a good little brewery walking distance from my house!

The Feeling at the End of the Page

91b54-old-school-librarian.pngWhen I first started teleworking back in 2011, the staffing agency I worked for and my supervisor at the time asked me to keep track of the work I was doing from home. I would send them an email at the end of each work day. When the bureau I work for set up G Suite back in 2014, I began writing my reports in Google Docs.

On February 29, 2016, I began to write up a report every work day, rather than just on my telework days. (I had to look up the date!) It had become useful for me to keep track of all of the projects I was working on. It became part of my daily routine.

I didn’t really think of it as a work diary per se until I read Amanda Leftwich’s article in The Librarian Parlor, “Reflecting Journaling: A Daily Practice.” I wouldn’t describe what I do as reflective and more as reactive. I’m just keeping track of what I’ve done in a day. That said, having all of those details written down has helped me when updating my duties in my contract, tweaking my LinkedIn profile, and (very occasionally) coming up with ideas for posts.

What I really took away from “Reflecting Journaling” was that I could get more out of my daily routine. I don’t really use the diary to work through problems I am trying to solve or projects I am trying to wrap my head around, but instead as a way to catalog my routine. This has a lot to do with the fact that the original diary entries were shared as reports with my original onsite and agency supervisors. I haven’t had to file telework reports for years, but the report format has stuck.

Despite my proclivity to play around with productivity tools and tips, I never used journaling as a way to help me manage my workload. Given that I tend to pick up and drop hacks, it makes sense to work within something that I already do on a regular basis. Maybe it will be easier to adapt habits I already have to new purposes.

But Researchers Never Found All the Pieces Yet

I have spent the last couple of years at my job wrangling data: visitor numbers, electronic resource fulltext downloads, activity reports, things like that. All of the numbers and reports and the like are stashed in Google Sheets and Google Docs, in SharePoint and in OneNote, and they are shared constantly through email and Slack. And we can put them all together to tell compelling stories about the work we do.

But I know that this isn’t quite enough to really capture the whole story. There are better data points and better ways to collect and manage those data points and better ways to evaluate them.

(I am giving some of my spreadsheets the short shrift when I put it that way. They are beautiful spreadsheets and like Big Daddy Kane they get the job done.)

I’ve thought a lot about how we can improve our data collection and management over the past couple of years. I’m not thinking about little tweaks here: I’ve done those little tweaks already. I want to make significant changes, and I’ve put a lot of thought and done a lot of work to figure out how to do so.

My office is presently implementing a new two-to-three year strategic plan. As the plan has fallen into place, a lot of the work I had done has been incorporated into it. Even better, my colleagues have come up with new ideas that either complement or improve on mine. Fresh sets of eyes bring fresh perspectives, and people who haven’t lived with the day-to-day tasks of data management can help those who do see the forest through all of the trees.

We recently had a meeting with folks from outside our office to talk about our data plan. They will be helping us put it into motion. One of the social scientists we met made a point that summed up how I’ve felt the past couple of years: How do we move from data management to data evaluation? We all agree that we’ve come up with a framework to make that leap.

I love it when a plan comes together. Now if we can just continue our work without further interruptions, everything is going to be great.

Mr. Lucifer Subscribed to My Blog

Almost all of the blogs I referenced in Come Down and Play Around back in June went months without posting after we all published our thoughts about the old biblioblogosphere. It’s like we all went to our reunion, reminisced about the good old days, swore we’d meet up again, and then went back to our lives.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have a whole list of reasons why I stopped blogging for awhile, a combination of the usual junk that flows through my head at various points of the year and special circumstances that helped me suppress my desire to write. What occurred to me towards the end of 2018 was that this was a mistake: I need to write. I also need to relearn how to write.

I’m doing that a number of ways. I have a few different outlets set up: a Eurovision blog, a beer diary, some attempts at fiction in Google Docs that I treat like a morning jog, and of course, this site. As I wrote in my previous post, I have to figure out the story I want to tell here. What do I want to share about my job, my work habits, and my interests that aren’t related to Eurovision and beer? I don’t have answers just yet, but I’ll try not to make every post for the next two months about my search for a purpose. I may make beer recommendations, though.

I’m also trying to find different outlets (blogs, magazines, etc.) to expose me to new ideas and new ways to express myself. I tend to fall back on the same small group of resources. If I want to spread my wings to fly, I need to look beyond the ground in front of me to do so.

On that deep thought, let’s start a party in a schnapps distillery…

That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate

Is January 17 way too late to make my New Year’s resolutions? I read a brief article in Fast Company recently titled, “Why you should start your New Year’s resolutions on March 4” that got me to thinking about how I approach things like, say, writing a personal blog.

The author Art Markman writes that a reason why many people fail to accomplish their resolutions is that they don’t put a plan into place to achieve them. He recommends spending the first couple months of the year making a plan, observing your habits, figuring out what will block you from succeeding, and finding people who can help you along the way.

(Yes, that’s a tl;dr version of an article with a two minute reading time.)

I won’t bore you with all of the bad habits I am resolving to change, but in context of my blog, my goals are as follows:

  • Figure out the story I want to tell with this blog.
  • Expand my reading and viewing horizons that will help inspire new posts.
  • Set and adhere to a writing schedule that is reasonable.

I don’t think that’s too tricky, but obviously I’ve made those goals before without success. Did I hold me back?

Where’d You Get Your Information From, Huh?

Back in April, I published a post detailing how I was using Google Tasks as part of my experiment to manage my work and personal projects. I lamented at the time (April 12, 2018) that there wasn’t a Tasks app. Seventeen days later, Google launched a Tasks app. It’s very simple and very straightforward, and it’s been very helpful.

While I am updating posts, I will mention that after writing that my place of work hadn’t approved Google Calendars, it has since approved Google Calendars. Now I can start begging for Tasks app approval.

Back In Another Shape

I’ve become fond of LinkedIn, mainly because of its newsfeed. A lot of news outlets and companies share updates from their sites, and LinkedIn has made an efforts to get “influencers” to post to their profiles. It’s not perfect (I follow Quartz, but never seem to see articles they post in my feed), but I find it an interesting, if eclectic information source.

Of course, a lot of business news outlets like Fast Company and The Muse often post articles about how to maximize your LinkedIn profile. It’s sort of like how Oscars voters like to give the Best Picture award to movies about Hollywood. Anyway, a lot of the tips are geared towards people who are looking to get hired or are trying to market themselves to their industry. Although I’m not looking for a job or trying to be an “influencer,” I like reading those suggestions to improve both the way I present myself and the way I share information on the site.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I am about to switch employers for the fourth time since I started my current job. I took the opportunity to change my LinkedIn profile to reflect both my steady job of seven years and nine months and my rotating cast of employers. I kept my job details in the main job description, then left the description fields blank for the contract staff companies. This way I don’t have to copy and paste my job description every time I switch companies. I am also able acknowledge my employers but connect my place of work to my profile, which makes it easier for my colleagues to find me.

To wit: I used the same format for my previous long-term contract position and within an hour, a former colleague of mine at NOAA reached out to connect. It makes a difference.