All posts tagged “motivation

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On Motivation and Management

tired hippo laying in the sun
Photo by Tim De Pauw on Unsplash

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on this site. To say it’s been a rough few years is so much of an understatement that it hints at the absurd. But I keep going, as we all do, in our own ways, despite all this.

I feel constantly at odds with myself as a new department head and manager. My job is to support and motivate others but I often struggle with motivation myself. I’ve always enjoyed my work. I love solving problems and helping others and learning new things. I derive satisfaction from good work and have always wanted to make a positive contribution to my workplace and professional community. I know I am not my work and my family is most important and this is just a job. I don’t think the problems we face in academic libraries are unique to academia or libraries and in many ways we have it a lot easier than people who do so many other kinds of work. I need to work to pay for life and hospital bills and speech therapy and a special school. But I also work so I can have fancy coffee and cute shoes and new books and silly earrings.

And yet it is feeling like such a drain these days.

I don’t mean to get all woe is the life of a manager with our bigger paychecks and greater positional authority, but like, maybe a little? I think there is something to be said about adjusting to a new leadership role. It’s awkward and exhausting. I make mistakes all the time. I will admit to wanting to nope-out of decision making, but that’s not really an option. So I keep on keepin’ on, apologizing when I don’t know the answer, struggling to understand new things because by the time 3pm rolls around my brain is muuuuush, and doing my best to support my truly wonderful team.

I’ve always admired supervisors and leaders who are so in control of their feelings and words, who always seem to know what to say or do in any situation. Are some people just better at knowing themselves and others? Or am I just seeing them at the end of years of trial and error? I worry sometimes about sounding like a total disaster. I worry about not giving the folks I supervise the support they need. I worry about being a good advocate and a decent human being. I also didn’t expect to be this uncertain at 40. But maybe that’s what happens when jobs change?

Whenever I take those management profiles/work personality tests/corporate horoscopes I never get the equivalent of THE BIG IN CHARGE, the color or acronym or number that means you are decisive, a natural leader, charismatic, and driven. I hear all the time that people who end up in management or leadership roles were promoted up past their point of effectiveness, and maybe not being THE BIG IN CHARGE personality type means that’s me. Or maybe I am just a different kind of manager and leader. I want to inspire confidence and find ways to motivate those around me and make them proud of the work they do. I think at this point in my career I am struggling to find my managerial motivation. What is going to keep me going in this job? What is going to sustain me in the hours I have at work and make me feel like I’ve done a good job? Maybe this is a question for my managerial / supervisory peers: What keeps you motivated in this role?

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New Year’s Rez List: Library Edition

I don’t normally do New Year’s resolutions. I certainly have hopes and aspirations at the start of every new year–exercise more, go to bed earlier, eat fewer tortillas, watch less tv, etc.–but I never resolve to strictly adhere to them throughout the following twelve months.

I do however, feel compelled to at least gather a few library-related aspirations together. I spent much of last year wishing I’d done things a bit differently at work, so this year I’m going to stop wishing and start making some changes.

1. Write more. When my Google calendar alerts pop up, I pay attention. So I’m going to schedule some writing time for myself every week. It could be a blog post, work on an opinion piece, or if I’m lucky, the start of a new scholarly article or book chapter. I love writing but I don’t often make the time to do it. I don’t want to squash spontaneous inspiration, but when that doesn’t happen, sometimes you just need to write something. Period.

2. Stop trying to multi-task. You don’t do it well. Despite my best efforts. I cannot blog-email-Facebook-read-Spotify-listen at once. One thing at a time is a good rule of thumb for me.

3. Free yourself from the shackles of email. I don’t need to have my email tab open at all times. I don’t need to reply to every email right away. I can delete messages and will, frequently. Sometimes a phone call is the right thing to do.

4. Follow through. I have several projects going on at the moment, and rather than take on new ones, I want to make sure that what I’m working on now is either completed or well-maintained. New and shiny is always exciting, but sometimes the familiar can surprise and fulfill you.

5. Value your time. This one is vague, I know, but it’s intentionally so. As librarians we’re so conditioned to be grateful when colleagues and patrons want our help that we often sacrifice our own time to help others. Yes, we are in a helping profession, but we are professionals with our own responsibilities and interests. To protect my own peace of mind and stave off burnout, I will place a premium on my own time, both at work and with my family.

What are your work-related resolutions, aspirations, or hopes for the new year?

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Step Away from the Project

My big on-going project for this academic year has been the redesign of our library’s website. We’re a small operation, so this task is one that I’ve undertaken with our college’s web designer. I have had lots of great brainstorming sessions and input from my colleagues, but it’s up to me to bring this new website into existence. It’s been a learning experience to say the least. What I thought would take a few months ended up dragging on for the better part of a year thanks to maternity leave and all of the other responsibilities that made up my day-to-day work load. I realize now that I was completely unrealistic in my initial time assessment.

It’s no newsflash: Building websites takes time. They require input from many different people and are a constantly evolving animal. The design that made sense yesterday suddenly doesn’t work with the content you want to add to the site today. The joke of this is that at the University of Houston Libraries I took part in the library’s website redesign process. I just assumed that at a smaller library with a smaller website the whole process would be much faster. Thankfully, I’m nearing the completion of this redesign and although I know websites are in a constant beta state, it is nice to know that I’ll at least have something to roll out this summer and fall.

The problem: I’ve been working on this website for so long that I’m kind of starting to hate it. At the ALA Annual Conference this weekend I went to a presentation by a group of librarians at Towson University. They created a really cute promo video for their library, which I thought was great. They however, freely admitted that whenever they watched the video all they could see were the mistakes in it. That’s where I am with this website. All I can see are the decisions I made and how changing them again and again and again would make things better. What if I had gone with this design or that style or that organizational scheme? I realize that things can always be changed, but I sometimes get to a point where all I want to do is throw up my hands and start from scratch!

When I take a step back from my immediate feelings of frustration, I know I’m just suffering from project fatigue. I just haven’t quite found the right way to deal with it. Suggestions are, as always, welcome.