Finding Balance in a Final Push.

Rocketing toward the end of my LibrarySchool career is exhilarating, but the closer I get to graduation, the more I feel like my list of projects to accomplish is too long to finish. I’m excited to be involved in our student activities, my classes are challenging in all the best ways, and my work outside of the academic milieu is giving me valuable experience, but there’s always a voice saying “You should do more!”

Library students are constantly told that we need to get out there, to tackle exciting projects and take on responsibilities that will help us get jobs and make connections. As #libschool hackers, I think we have a greater understanding of the need to make our programs of study suit our interests, and I’ve seen a number of my colleagues do amazing things, at Syracuse and other universities, in order to follow their passions. I can’t picture a situation in which someone was disadvantaged because they took time outside of their graduate commitments to work on a project they really cared about. In some ways, I think library students should consider an extracurricular project or three as part of their coursework, even if it’s not possible to get “official” credit for it.

That said, I know I’m preaching to the choir–library students are an active bunch, and tend to have a problem saying no to the dozens of opportunities we have.  I often find myself wondering how much is too much. I haven’t forgotten Zach’s post about running out of time, and even with lots of job-hunting resources out there I know that finding a starter position will be occupying a lot of my attention this semester. On top of maintaining my ongoing projects, a certain part of my attention will be devoted to finding eager first-year students who want to continue them next year. The semester is only a few weeks old, and I’m already feeling my stress level increase. I’ve been going back over the HLS posts on work/life balance and dealing with stress, and it’s nice to have the reminder that I’m not the only one who’s been stressed out in library school.

So how do you know when enough is enough? I’m willing to bet the answer changes from person to person, and maybe even from day to day. I know from my own experience that just when I feel like I’m at the absolute limit of my mental bandwidth, a new project will come along that re-energizes me, and I add that one on top of everything else. In other situations, even when “nothing changes” in terms of my workload, there are days when I’m very, very excited to finish my responsibilities with a particular initiative and hand that project off to someone else. I look forward to an active comment thread on this post–I hope we can all share strategies for handling very busy lives.

Reflecting on the year-and-a-half that has gone by since I started my program, I realize just how much I’ve accomplished, even while being somewhat selective. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we have to say yes to everything–for me, the competitive job market in libraryland means that I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to distinguish myself, and saying no, even when it’s completely necessary, always seems like a missed opportunity. Still, I’ve come to understand that over-committing to projects will make every aspect of my life suffer. Taking on a bit less work, and doing a stellar job with it, seems better, somehow, than doing a mediocre job with loads of projects.

As with everything else in library school, the trick is finding the balance that will keep you sane. Striving to achieve that balance, and learning how to maintain it, is one of the skills I think I’ve learned from my graduate work, even if I can’t tie it to a particular class outcome. Certainly, I can always improve, and I’m sure that once I enter a work environment I’ll be learning how to keep that balance with an entirely different set of opportunities, pressures, and responsibilities. Still, I’m glad to have the chance to practice now. I don’t expect that life will calm down any, and I’ve watched recent graduates get significantly busier, albeit in slightly different ways, once they settle into jobs they love.

Library Students: How do you keep up with everything? Is “everything” something one should even try to keep up with? Sound off in the comments!

9 replies

  1. I try to keep a schedule going with blocks of time for each thing I have to do, whether it’s for school or personal life.

    Is “everything” something we need to keep up with? I’d say no. I think we need to figure out what our priorities are and stick with them. If it’s an opportunity to do something we are absolutely passionate about, I say go for it, but there’s no way we can do everything (at least not in one semester / year / short period of time).

    We have the rest of our lives to accomplish all that we want, so I don’t think we should schedule it all for the beginning. Space it out, and enjoy your whole life!


  2. If you’re a person who’s prone to being interested in stuff (as everyone should be!), you will never get done everything that interests you. You will never even get done all the things that REALLY interest you. You’ll never even get done all the things you really really should do.

    Make the to-don’t list, find things you can delegate to interesting-interested-but more junior people (for whom those things are an opportunity!), realize that some things are better left to colleagues (who can tell you how they turned out afterward, or tell you the high points of those important information sources that they love that you just kinda don’t), turn up the awesomeness level at which you’re willing to say yes (and then keep finding awesomer things to do).

    You can’t do everything, in the sense of everything interesting or everything worthwhile.

    But, if only because I’m young and optimistic, I do think you can do everything, in the sense of “something within every domain that really matters to you”.

    I just don’t think you can do it all *at the same time*. But that’s okay. Being young and optimistic, we have decades over which to unfold it all.

    Still, I bought myself a No! button:


  3. I try to list 5 things for the week aside from the regular readings and research/writing work. This doesn’t always work, but I try to not give myself a hardtime. I am thinking I may get that NO button.


  4. I can sympathize with you, Topher. This semester, I’ve loaded myself up with extra-curricular activities, and sometimes I wonder how I will get it all done. I’ve set myself assignment deadlines about 1 week before their actual deadlines just in case I fall behind because of all my self-imposed activities, as well as the job search. Preparing for and going to an academic library interview is TIME CONSUMING! Anyways, you’re not alone. And from what we’ve heard from HLS alumni, life doesn’t seem to slow down when you’re finally done with library school. But at least we’re doing something we really enjoy doing. I know I am.


  5. This is a really timely post – I’m in the final push myself and balance is a hard one. A really, really hard one and I suspect I’ve got fewer things on my plate than you do. To-Do lists are so necessary it’s ridiculous. And calendars. And Post-Its. Can I just say that I love Post-Its? Mostly though, I’m finding that what’s made the difference between keeping my sanity and being a crazed, caffeine-junkie is knowing and respecting my limits, and choosing those commitments that mean the most to me. A poster-session might sound like a great idea, but do you really want to do it? Or do you just want to have done it? Taking on fewer commitments, but committing to them 100% has saved my sanity and, I suspect, given me more depth of understanding into those experiences than I would have gotten if I’d spread myself too thin. That being said, I’m going to go pour myself another cup of coffee and take a look at my to-do list.


  6. Pingback: Juggling | hls

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