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Giving Up on Project Managing My Life


Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

It’s no secret that I haven’t been blogging, interacting on Library Twitter, or replying to emails. This past month has been intense. My partner underwent a kidney-pancreas transplant on Nov. 19. I don’t know what it is about November that has become such a central month in our family’s life. On Nov. 8 we said goodbye to our first son; on Nov. 17 we welcomed our second son into the world; and now Nov. 19 is my partner’s new “birthday,” the day his life was extended. Needless to say, when Daylight Savings time ends, my emotions are running are high and low–sometimes simultaneously!

I’ve spent the last week emerging from a month of caretaking, parenting, and household managing to try to cobble together some kind of a sabbatical workday. It’s mostly consisted of me catching up on books, articles, blog posts, and Twitter threads. I always appreciate the writing of my fellow authors on ACRLog, and one of our newest contributors, Abby Flanigan, wrote a great post on time management as a new academic librarian. She was wonderful suggestions for productivity within the workday, and even suggests using the system she’s adopted (based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done) “to keep track of the things that need doing in my personal life.” I think this is great for small things, as she suggests, but trying to apply a productivity system to Life is troublesome. Let me be clear: Abby does not suggest this. Her post just did what any good blog post should do: It got me thinking. It got me thinking about my own life, my own productivity efforts, and my own feelings. Thank you, Abby!

My own organization/productivity system centers on my bullet journal, but lately not even my tried-and-true system of dots, dashes, and crossmarks has been able to make me feel as though I’m living up to my productivity potential. There doesn’t seem to be a good way to project-manage life. It’s too messy, too tied up with emotions, day-to-day health experiences, and unexpected occurrences. I may have planned out a full day of grocery shopping, gift mailing, and kayaking, but when my kiddo comes down with a nasty cold, we’re going to be eating canned soup for a few days and watching Moana over and over again. If my partner is having a bad reaction day to a new dose of his meds there is no laundry happening and we can all wear those socks one more time. After a long week I might not feel like cleaning the floors and will just go get a pedicure instead.

Yes, there are things that have to get done: Those medications need refills. My son needs to go to school in something resembling clothing. I should probably pay that electricity bill. But I am done thinking about my life as a project that will either succeed or fail, because life isn’t a project. There is no winning or losing. There is just the experience of the day-to-day. I can work towards what I need and want, but ultimately what I have control over are my own reactions to each day. It’s taken me a long time to realize that as much as I want to treat my personal life as a work project, it doesn’t work that way. I can’t checklist my way to a cleaner house and happier family. I’ll just end up upset that I haven’t accomplished everything I want to within a day and not be proud of the things I have done. I may not have added “diffuse a six-year-old’s emotional outburst” to my bullet journal list, but it happened today, and I got through it, and I should be proud.

You should be proud of what you’ve managed to do today too.


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