2020: The Year of Time Management and Self-Care

Career Blog

Published: December 28, 2019 by Greta Snyder

Self-care might be a trending buzzword, but that’s for a good reason. In today’s working world, boundaries with technology can be tricky to navigate. While the Internet and portable, relatively affordable or freely accessible technology increasingly put information and communication at our fingertips, the downside, however, to this infinite access is that it also means we feel like we have to be available and working all the time.

So, the trending concept of self-care has emerged not just as the workaholic’s top New Year’s resolutions, but also as something every LIS student and professional should incorporate into their time management strategy. Time to get zen on your great balancing act as we look forward to 2020.

Tips for time management and self-care

Everyone discovers different tips and tricks for time and task management that work best for them. I’d love to hear any recommendations; comment below or email me. Ultimately, there is no one secret recipe; the only way to know what works for you is to try solutions until you find the one(s) that work best for you. As a full-time student, full-time toddler mom and part-time employee, time management is like the secret sauce that holds it all together. So, here are some things I’ve found that work well for me, and hopefully, these can help you too; it’s worth an old-fashioned try, right?

  • Start every day with one have-to list. Instead of writing a to-do list of everything you should or could possibly get done (and immediately feeling exhausted already), try writing a prioritized list of three items, with one have-to. Then once you accomplish your one have-to, anything else you can knock out is like bonus material. Writing a prioritized list helps you focus and cognitively offload the less essential tasks, so they don’t distract you from the primary objective.
  • Plan in advance for chunks of work time. Regardless of how many children you might be trying to keep from covering all their stuffed animals in mustard, how many customer service issues you resolve every day at work, or how much you now realize you over-committed in planning to support a local food bank fundraiser; you’re in good company: basically, life is chaos. So, to retain your mental well-being and sanity, just plan in advance for the chaos but be sure to schedule a meeting with yourself every week. Hold tight to this commitment as if it were an appointment with someone else. Invest in yourself, the work you’re doing, and the time you need to do it.
  • Leverage online and mobile tools. Everyone has different strategies here but having a time management and task organization system you can take with you and access anywhere really helps alleviate that horrible sinking feeling that your forgot something or everything.
    • It can be as simple as writing out your have-to list on a piece of paper to taking advantage of the searchability feature of Notes on your phone, to getting creative with digital-born platforms such as Evernote.
    • I personally like physically writing my list so I can get that old-fashioned satisfaction of the stroke of a check mark. But in planning for longer-term projects, I love Trello board, which allows you to create collaborative lists and categorize ideas. This is crucial for being able to work together on projects and to keep your brain focused on what to do now, what to work towards and what to save for later.
  • Does it take under five minutes? Stop putting it off. I am the ultimate former-procrastinator. I had to learning to stop undermining my productivity by putting things off as I found that even though I thought, “oh, I’ll do it later,” the dread that I would forget or hadn’t dealt with it got in the way of focusing on larger projects and objectives.
    • If it takes under five minutes, take some advice from Nike and just do it. Just read or send that email. If you see the email come flying in at night when you’re about to tap out, just flag it or forward it to yourself and plan to tackle it in the morning.
    • Plan what types of work you’ll do at specific times of the day based on you own “most productive” rhythms, e.g., are you a morning person or a night owl. Listen to yourself and give yourself a break when you need it by maximizing your natural productivity times.
    • Strategize your social media efforts. Even if your current job or coursework doesn’t directly involve use of social media, your visibility as an emerging LIS professional requires it, so get on board with how to integrate social media into your daily workflow. While tools exist, such as Hootsuite, that aggregate all social media into one platform, I’ve found that when using different platforms, e.g. Instagram or Facebook, being able to correctly use different handles and hashtags for each post is most beneficial.
    • Social media “Happy Hour” top: statistically the best time to Tweet, Insta and LinkedIn is between 2-5pm on M-F with some Instagram, and Facebook or Pinterest being worthwhile on the weekend. Use Tweetdeck for days you know you’ll be away from a screen during prime-time.
  • Ask other professionals and students for tips and tricks on managing time. Who better to show you the way then someone who’s already leading the way? Build your own time-managing toolkit by seeking out mentoring opportunities and teaching moments with those you see succeeding in your courses or professionally in the field.
    • As LIS students and professionals, we are passionate about sharing information and love contributing advice to support each other. Don’t hesitate out of worry that you’re burdening someone; instead, letting someone know that you think they are amazing to be managing it all and want to learn from their success is a great compliment.
    • Asking for tips can be a great way to cultivate professional relationships and network, as I discuss in my last post on networking.
  • Pace yourself and schedule time for self-care: I know this feels counterintuitive when everyone is such a dedicated and committed student and professional, but if you don’t take time for yourself, you’ll take on too much. Besides burning yourself out, this can create another negative for you:  nobody wants to overpromise and under-deliver.
    • Ask yourself how much more can you contribute to the field, how much better can you support your patrons, colleagues and classmates if you get that little bit of extra sleep, time away from a screen, or a chance to be fully present and enjoy a special moment with friends or family without looking at alerts on your phone.
    • No matter how you prefer to self-care, if you don’t schedule time for yourself it won’t happen. Whether it’s getting a massage, taking a day off from your computer off, volunteering at a local organization, taking your kid to a museum for the first time in ages, binge watching that show that has been lingering on your watch list for ages, cooking that perfect insta-worthy dinner, or grabbing coffee with an old friend, you need to schedule that time for yourself or it won’t happen.

Final thoughts

When you already feel strapped for time, thinking of time management strategies seems like just another thing to add to the to-do list. To get motivated, think of it as a killer professional skill: per the 2019 SJSU iSchool MLIS Skills at Work Report 26% of jobs seek project management skills and 25% seek both independent work and collaborative skills. Time management is a crucial component of all these trending skills.

If you go into a job interview if you just say you’re “good at time management” but don’t have specific examples or insightful strategies to share, that’s way less compelling. So consider that the work you do now to cultivate your personal time-management strategy for balancing school and other obligations will pay off when you can bring your time-management strategies to future interviews and career moves.

In our profession, we’re always curious, often innovating new strategies for access and outreach, and it’s hard not to be always on to the next thing. So, it’s crucial to schedule some self-care for Winter Break. In fact, do it right now and put at least something on your calendar, even if it’s doing nothing for 2 hours next Thursday afternoon, perfecting that guacamole recipe, trying out that new hot yoga studio, or finally cuddling up with some popcorn and Star Wars on a snowy Saturday evening.

No matter where you are and what your obligations might be, sprinkle in a little me-time to make this a super special holiday season. Take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments!

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