It’s OK to Not Have Time

I know it seems really whiney, but it seems that these days I just don’t have any time. I feel constantly overwhelmed and no matter how much I do, I have a hard time keeping all my balls in the air. I know that I’m not alone in feeling this.  In fact it seems like many of my friends in their last year, and especially those in their last term, have run into similar issues.

I think there are several factors that contribute to it. Our degree programs are for professional degrees and many have practicum requirement. By our last terms many of us are either volunteering regularly, interning, or working in a library environment, which means that much of our day is spent working. On top of that I’ve noticed that by the time library-schoolers get into their last term they are largely taking extremely specialized classes. Unlike many cursory introduction classes these tend to have a more complicated and often a larger workload. If you’re doing things right (in my humble opinion), you should also be involved in some sort of organization, whether its the local SLA chapter or your student group.  In short, you just don’t have any time.

So how do you get by?

I think the first thing to do is realize that it’s OK to not have a life [for 4 months. Be honest with the people who matter to you. Maximize the quality of time you’re spending with people, even if you have to cut back on the quantity. Realizing that this is a stressful time and accepting it is the first step to getting through. Once you know your situation, you can take steps to maximize your quality of life.

One step to take is maximizing your time management. Learning these skills now will be a great carry-over into your professional life. David Allen and Tim Ferris are two authors who come to mind who have written about ways to increase your efficiency and manage your time well. There’s also the great blog LifeHacker, which has lots of tips for making your life more streamlined while increasing your quality of life.

In terms of other techniques, I recommend keeping an up-to-date task list. Nearly all of the most effective librarians I know use a to-do list. If you have a smart device, there is a host of apps you can use. Two that I’ve used to great effect in my own life are “Do it Tomorrow” and “Astrid.” Do It Tomorrow is a notebook interface that gives you a two-day framework for tasks. Astrid is a cloud and social networking to do list. I like it because it syncs between several of my other services and is a bit annoying, which makes me pay attention to it. People also like Evernote as an organizer, but it’s so multifaceted I tend to loose my to do lists in with the other notes.

Learning to say “no” is also important. Librarians are an enthusiastic, helpful, and agreeable lot; which normally means we get walked all over. Learning to say “no” is tough, but now is the time to learn! Too often librarians are told to make more with less. Right now you have less time, but people want you to do more with it. It’s ok to tell someone that while you think their idea is great, you don’t have the time to help them out. This isn’t a call or an excuse for laziness. Its a call for responsibility. Its a lot easier to explain to someone that you’re too busy and can’t commit to doing something than to explain why you dropped the ball.

Finally, I think it’s important to remember to make time for yourself. Having a personal space that you can be selfish about can be a much needed isle of sanity in the barely managed chaos. I’m trying to make sure that I get time to go to the gym. My friend has set aside a yoga class or two and has Mondays as a personal day. Whether it’s a day off, a coffee break, or walking your dog, making “me” space is a good way to give yourself time to relax and reflect.

If you’re as busy as I’ve become, you’re probably already thinking about the above. Good luck, and remember we’re almost to the finish line!

Categories: Honesty

30 replies

  1. I’m in my second to last semester of library school, and have been working full-time in a library the entire time. Here are my survival strategies:

    1. Be willing to be upfront about your need to check out of certain commitments for months at a time depending on your coursework.
    2. Have study dates with people you still want to spend time with. My SO is not in grad school but brings home a lot of work, so a lot of our quality time is spent together on our laptops in the evenings.
    3. Embrace the crockpot. Freeze tons of leftovers for nights you don’t feel like cooking.
    4. Find a way to consistently schedule down-time for recharging your batteries. This down-time should not involve libraries whatsoever, and preferably involve really good food and/or trashy magazines.


  2. Oh, and:
    5. Embrace Google calendar or something similar. All of my due dates are listed on Google calendar, and I even schedule out nights for studying particular courses. For tasks/to-do lists, I like the Wunderlist app which is available on almost all platforms and free.


  3. I LOVE this post. You mentioned productivity systems so I thought I’d add a link to the GradHacker productivity-related posts (some are even by HLS-ers!):

    I like how you added “in my humble opinion” after adding your take on how to tackle library school… I’ve found myself adding that same sort of comment to my own advice-giving! I find it tricky to navigate giving advice without seeming like a know-it-all. Like you, I think that library students should be challenging themselves constantly. Everyone finds a different balance work/life balance… knowing and respecting yourself is the only compass you need to get by. For instance, I know that I’m a workhorse. I want to do it all and do it well, but I want to do it in my way. I like being really busy; it gives me momentum. I know that if I slow down I will lose motivation. Also, the fact of doing more means that I meet more people and feel more connected to the IU/SLIS community, so in a way my involvement satisfies a social aspect of my life. Do other super involved library students feel this way, too?

    I also think in my particular situation the fact that I’m in a comfortable long-term relationship means I’m not dealing with too much drama on the romantic front. This allows me to, as the bf says, “go Leslie Knope it up” in the library world.

    My preferred to-do list is Ta-Da List. It’s a really basic interface that will be familiar to anyone who has worked with the 37signals CMS suite (basecamp, campfire, etc.)


  4. I know that I have always been a planner/organizer carrier, but have since evolved into a Google Calendar FREAK. It really helps me keep track of even things I’d LIKE to do, but probably won’t get to.

    This can be crazy hard to balance. I know I’m personally feeling overwhelmed with online commitments, school, and a relationship in its early stages.. and it leaves me often feeling a bit drained — but a GOOD drained. Like how you feel when you’ve completed a marathon.

    Like Bri, I LOVE being busy. I thrive on being busy. In undergrad, I was the girl who left the house at 8am and didn’t get home until 10pm. I love being with/around/working next to people. But perhaps it’s the heightened level of real-world awareness that goes on in a graduate program, or the sheer competitiveness of my fellow student colleagues (a good thing!), but I am much more AWARE of how my time is spent now than three years ago.

    My favorite me time? Walking across campus with my iPod blaring some ridiculous song, and feeling like it’s my own personal life soundtrack. Epic.


  5. To-do lists are amazing.

    What I always found really helpful was scheduling a break.

    It doesn’t really matter how long it is as long as you’re rested at the end.

    Sometimes I would watch a movie, go for a run, go to the gym, make some dinner, etc.

    It’s always good to let your mind rest.


  6. Hi,
    I’ve written another post scheduled that addresses few points brought up in the comments. Specifically, it will be addressing some of the apps that I’ve tried out to up my productivity.

    I think erica’s suggestion about a crock pot is amazing. I’m going to buy one as soon as I get paid. I find that part of my finical stresses around grad school is related to food. If I develop a better food management system I think that could make life a lot better. I’m also going to try investing in a casserole dish.


    • Zach – good for you! I ate horribly – I mean really, really horribly in grad school due to having 3 jobs, internships, student club memberships, full course load, etc. I would just grab fast food or junk food all the time. I had a crockpot and never used it, and now I use it all the time – if I had only known then what I knew now! Casseroles are also fantastic. Great advice, Eira!


  7. Hey Zack and others,

    I was surprised and pleased to see that your post included the line “it’s okay not to have a life..” I feel like I knew a lot of fellow students who constantly complained about how “busy” they were without really getting involved in anything. As you’ve mentioned in other posts – it’s grad school and life is SUPPOSED to be tough.

    One of the things that kept me sane was keeping my goal in mind – getting a job. I’m not going to lie, I think the main reason that I was employed immediately after graduation was the fact that I did not have a life for my duration in grad school. Sure, going out every Friday night may be a great stress reliever, but I spent most of those Friday evenings finishing database assignments or prepping for a presentation.

    To everyone still in library school, I feel like I am living proof that IT GETS BETTER. Working in a library full-time you will still have stress, commitments, late nights at the office, but not at the level it was in during grad school (and if you’re in grad school and do have a life you’re doing something wrong).


  8. Thank you for this post – my management course has been talking about project management for the past week and I’m trying to get the feel for some more types of organization software. I have a calendar but I think Astrid may make everything more visual and compelling.


  9. Thanks everyone! I’m checking out all these different and Free apps. I definitely agree with making Google Calendar your best friend. This semester I’m taking a full load, interning, and working. It’s been tough, but like some have posted I too like to fill up my schedule and be active and busy. I don’t have a crockpot-yet. But, I have definitely been relying on my microwave to heat up the left overs. So I’d suggest when you cook food make large quantities so you have plenty of left overs.


  10. As a first-year LIS student, I also struggle with this. Thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone, Zack.

    I’m going to second your plug for David Allen. I read Getting Things Done and it changed my life. When I really use his ingeniously simple workflow management system the way I know I should, it makes all the difference.


  11. I’m a first year LIS student and I know this day is coming for me. My online program is actually three years long so I’m feeling a little less pressured to jump in right away so I’ve been surveying the landscape as far as organizations and volunteering go.

    I’m taking this more cautious approach because of something my mom ingrained in me long ago. She’d always say we need to find an organization/group/activity we love and then fully commit to it. Partly this was a mom of three kids trying to make sure we didn’t all sign up five after school activities, but I still think this is great advice as an adult. I want to zero in on something (or maybe two somethings) that I really want to get involved in and give it my all.

    I’ve made my peace with not being able to do it all. However, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to.


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