procrastinating librarian

For a procrastinator, I accomplish a lot. I’m better now, than I used to be. Becoming a mother helped. Now I have a finite amount of time at work. I don’t bring it home because spending time with Elsa is the most important goal of each day. Before motherhood my boundaries were blurry. I brought home work, when I really didn’t have to. But since I like being productive and seeing results of how I spend my time on Earth, I’ve taken steps to never be bored.

As far as projects go, I usually get all the research/leg-work out of the way early on. But I leave the writing until the last minute. That was my M.O. I feel a bit more mature, now; a bit more responsible by attacking my writing earlier on.  I just spend those last minutes editing and revising. It makes a great deal of difference in the finished paper.

That article I wrote on Zappos? I had at least a dozen different versions. The main outline was the same, but I worried over the words and changed them time and time again. It paid off, because it was accepted with very little revision.

So here’s what I’ve learned about putting it off:

  • Perfection stymies me. I expect perfection from myself–and others–in all that I do. No, wait. I expect self-perfection in the tasks that I value the highest. There are lots of tasks I consider of a trivial nature and those, I tend to be unresponsive to (see Just not that into the project, below). When that first draft doesn’t spring forth, or when a library patron and I struggle to communicate, I am discouraged. Overcoming that discouragement takes practice. Keep at it. It’s so hard though. I accept that I am human. I make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I try to do better next time.
  • My relationship with clutter affects my productivity. I use my messy desk as an excuse to put off finishing tasks because I MUST straighten and organize the area first in order to really dig in. Cop out. Total and complete cop out. I’ve worked in clutter with random personal items littering my desk for years.  I can forget it exists, easily, and get to work. But sometimes I don’t. I won’t. What’s really helped with that were two things.  When my former boss compared my office to that of another colleague who was REALLY known for cultivating a a pigsty of note, that lit a fire under my butt to attempt some kind of regular de-cluttering. Honestly, my office was nowhere near that other person’s level of sloth.  The other thing was reading The power of less: The fine art of limiting yourself to the essential in business… and in life. It helped me change my thinking and approach to daily workflow. I’ve struggled to adhere to a morning routine because of how meetings are scheduled at my library. But I do set the three most important tasks for the day and process my inbox to empty. The working disconnected is ridiculously impossible. And though I don’t always spent fifteen minutes each day de-cluttering my home, I DO try that in my office once a week to achieve a more zen-like space.
  • Distractions like facebook and email are time/energy sucks. The bit in Babauta’s book about working disconnected is key here. If my brand of librarianship was old school, and I wasn’t hooked up to a pc all day long, I’d accomplish so much more. Yet, being hooked up puts word processing at my fingertips and I type so much faster than I write by hand. It’s a trade off.  Constant connection is too easy. Learning not to click Chrome or Outlook is impossible. I could sell that, if I knew how to prevent it, that tenuous balance between being a Jedi and crossing over to the Dark Side.
  • Deadline thinking can be effective, but is mostly stressful. I bought into the myth that I work better on a deadline, and this was my approach to school work, and to a good extent, my professional work, too. Working on a project and completing it three minutes before it is due, is so school-school. Not professional. Using the clicking tock– what a weird typo–the ticking clock to spur your productivity loses its effectivness at some point. Like, the point when you just don’t care anymore, and no matter how many deadlines you–or someone else–sets, you won’t meet them.
  • Just not that into the project. Yeah, we all take on projects we just aren’t into. Perhaps it sounded more interesting that it turned out to be. Or someone suggested you work on it when you had no interest, but you were playing nice/being nice and went along with it, that whole librarians wearing many hats and trying to fill in for the lack of personnel. I’m fairly good at saying no. Ocassionally I lapse. Extracting myself from these commitments is dicey. Having a slew of other pressing projects to list when you bow out of the one you’re just not that into is helpful.
  • Self-sabotage is the worst of these evils. When you think you’re not good enough or don’t deserve to be a librarian–well, I don’t actually ever feel this way, but some do–you do things to prove to your mother that you are a loser, a failed librarian. You say yes to everything with no plan for how to manage your time or produce results. Then you’re in a pickle. It’s terribly self-fulfilling. Learn to say no. Don’t volunteer for everything. Take on one new project, or one new time slot at the desk, at a time and put all your energy into that. I suggest you examine and change your patterns.

It’s just a bit of a lame ending for this post. And that’s another problem for procrastinotors: They run out of steam. Either because they take on too many projects, or spend too much time dwaddling in front of the pc and they’re all used up and useless to others.

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