Graham Lavender, OCULA President, introduces himself.
Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
I’ve always thought of fall as a time of new beginnings. Maybe it has something to do with a large majority of my life being lived in semesters. Fall presents itself each year as that time when we can start anew, building new relationships with faculty and students, diving deep into instruction, consultations and more.
This academic year I’m focusing on a few areas of self-improvement, not only getting stuff done but also my “New Year’s” resolutions for the 2018/19 academic year:
Focus on the business of getting things done
During my MLIS at Dalhousie, many classroom conversations often returned to focus on the business of getting things done. This has always been ingrained in my approach to work and I credit this program for instilling this in me. However, sometimes it’s easy to lose focus and get caught up in the weeds. This year, I’m trying to stay focused on being decisive and moving projects forward. For me, this means learning how to delegate better, focusing on developing clear project plans and finding the right tools that will help me accomplish what I need to. Personally, I’m using TeuxDeux to manage my tasks and collaboratively with my team we’re using Asana. These tools have allowed me to spend less time getting organized and more time focusing on getting stuff done.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
…and it’s all small stuff, right? I have a colleague who likes to remind the rest of us regularly that we’re not saving lives (although of course, some medical librarians might be…). I’ve found that as a profession, we are often guilty of taking ourselves very seriously, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing—except when it is. Chronic stress can lead to a myriad of issues, both psychological and physical (see the American Psychological Association’s Understanding chronic stress for more information). For me, as a chronic worrier, this means trying to actively practice mindfulness by asking myself, “What type of reaction does this really warrant?” Usually, it doesn’t warrant getting stressed out and overreacting. I’m also building regular yoga sessions into my routine and making a conscious effort to not eat at my desk, but rather to spend time with colleagues and try to not talk about work. Work can be all-consuming, so I find it important to take the time to decompress and not think about it.
Build meaningful relationships
It’s the real people and relationships with them that get us through. Having those people in your work life means taking the time to get to know them. When we’re in conversations, it can often be difficult to stay present and focused on the individual in front of us—our minds wander and we might be thinking about the next email that we need to send or something we forgot to say in the last meeting we were in. I know that I am guilty of not being the greatest listener at all times (just ask my husband). However, I know that this awful habit gets in the way of building meaningful relationships. Acknowledging this, I’m trying to focus more on what others are saying and taking the time to be real. I love the Inc article 9 Practical Steps to Restore Empathy in the Workplace, which says we should get emotional and “show your heart” and reminds us that “If you aren’t asking [people] what they think or feel, you’re shutting them down.” Years down the road, it’s unlikely that we’ll be still thinking about that committee meeting or presentation we gave, it’s more likely that we’ll remember the relationships and the people.
Does fall feel like the beginning of a new year? What are your resolutions for the 2018/19 school year?
Melanie Parlette-Stewart is the Digital Media Librarian at the University of Guelph Library. She is also the 2018 OCULA President. She can be reached at mparlett [at] uoguelph.ca.