Tell me if this feels familiar to you: you get into work full of hopes and dreams of what you’ll accomplish. You sip your coffee, write your to-do list, check email, still full of self-assurance that today will be the most productive day ever. Cut to the end of the day: you’re harried, disheveled, a shell of a person, and you have checked not one thing off your to-do list. What happened?
Just the other day I had the last hour of my day set aside for some good, hard, task driven work. You know what happened? We had a thunderstorm in February in Michigan which knocked our power out for about 10 seconds which subsequently knocked my work plans out for the next hour. There were patrons to help and automatic lights to fix and other sundry issues. I immediately felt that annoyance rise up: “This isn’t supposed to be happening right now! I had a plan!”
Often in library work, our days get away from us and we don’t get a single thing done that we planned on. And spoiler alert, I’m not here to tell you how to get through your to-do list in the face of such adversity. In all of my years (16) of working in libraries and in all of my various positions (eleventy billion/I’m too lazy to count) in special, public, and academic libraries I have come to believe that the unexpected is just a fact of library life.
If it’s not a power outage, the students you supervise need help or didn’t show up for their shifts. If it’s not student employees, it’s software that crashed or meetings that run long or your boss gives you an urgent task. And at the end of the day, after the inevitable pileup of interruptions, it can feel like you didn’t get anything done.
The key word in that last sentence is “feel like.” Lately, I’ve started to come to peace with the fact that my job is more than my to-do list, although that’s a part of it. My job is also my thoughtful contributions in meetings, my support of patrons in a crisis, my assisting coworkers in a pinch, and sometimes it’s turning on all the lights and making sure no one hurt themselves when the power went out. I’ve learned to shift my narrative a little bit and not tell myself I didn’t get anything done today when, in fact, I got a lot done today, just not what I had planned on. What are the stories you tell yourself at the end of the day? Are you giving yourself enough credit for the things you did, even if it doesn’t match your vision of what you had hoped to do? I’m willing to bet you got a lot done today and the library is better for having you in it.