The Urge to Do Everything

This week marks eight months into my first professional librarian position (man, does time fly, or what?) and as I get closer to the one-year mark, I’m thinking about what I’ve accomplished so far and starting to form goals for next year. Reflecting and goal-setting are good practices in general, but I’m making a conscious effort to do so after coming to the realization that I cannot, in fact, do *everything*.

I try to get involved in as many different kinds of projects as I can, and I seek out a lot of professional development opportunities (like this one – guest blogging for ACRLog’s First Year Academic Librarian Experience!). Luckily, the flexibility of my job allows me to contribute to a variety of projects and initiatives, explore new ideas, and collaborate with many different people. However, because I have varied interests and love to do a little bit of everything, I can easily end up taking on too much at once.

A perfect example would be from earlier this year, when I learned the hard way that if you submit a conference proposal, you have to actually have the time to follow through with it. I submitted a proposal for a poster session, not expecting anything to come of it, and then to my surprise it actually got accepted. I’m not at all saying that’s a bad thing – I had a rewarding conference experience and enjoyed talking with other attendees about my poster – but having to prepare for that in the midst of an already busy time of year made for some very stressful moments.

It’s hard for me to pass up an opportunity when it comes along, which is why I apply for just about every scholarship, award, or professional development program I can find. If there’s a scholarship granting travel funds for a conference, you can bet I’m trying to get it. I’m also on the lookout for other programs that I might be able to participate in (like ACRL Immersion). It’s especially tempting to not let all of these great opportunities slip by because so many are available to “new or early-career librarians” (hey, that’s me!). If you think that I must have spent a lot of time writing application essays and personal statements in the last eight months…well, you’d be right.

Not always the best approach.
Not always the best approach.

That need to *do all the things* can have great payoffs. I’m now looking forward to the LOEX Conference next month (which I wouldn’t be going to at all without the conference scholarship), and the Minnesota Institute for Early Career Librarians this summer. But of course, I have also spent time writing a handful of unsuccessful application essays. It’s always disappointing news to not get a scholarship or not get into a great program, but what can be more frustrating for me at times is knowing that I put time, effort, and energy into an application packet only for it to not work out.

What this all comes down to is that time is valuable, and there’s not enough of it to do everything that comes along or anything that strikes my fancy. While reflecting on the past year and planning ahead for the next one, I’m thinking I should make sure my professional development activities are aligned with my goals, rather than acting on the urge to do any- and everything possible.

Of course, I say all of this now just as I’ve spotted another travel award for a conference that I’m just dying to get started on!

On that note, this post in Library Journal helpfully reminded me that there are more ways to engage in professional development than attending conferences and leadership institutes, publishing, presenting, and performing committee work. I get a lot out of following social media and blogs, which are beneficial without requiring money, travel, and a major time commitment.

4 thoughts on “The Urge to Do Everything

  1. Your post really resonated with me, Ariana — after nearly 7 years as a librarian I find myself fighting the “do all the things!” urge too, probably more often than I’d like. It’s great to take advantage of opportunities as they come, though, and congratulations on your poster presentation acceptance! I read somewhere once that when trying to evaluate whether you’ll have time for a new commitment, it’s useful to look at the next 2-3 weeks in your calendar rather than the time (in the future) when the commitment will actually occur, because the next 2-3 weeks is likely a more accurate representation of the time available. Even so, I still struggle with accurately estimating how busy I’ll be in the future.

  2. I’m having a hard enough time trying to Do All The Things while being a student and working full time in another career. I’ve only recently started applying for conference scholarships (applied for 3, got one, so I’m feeling good). I look forward to the opportunity to pick and choose …

  3. Ah, good idea, thanks Maura. Henry, congrats on the conference scholarship! I focused on professional development opportunities in the post (like conference scholarships, which are great!), but I was also thinking about projects that may come up at work. Even if it’s something I’m interested in and would like to contribute to, sometimes I should also consider saying “No thanks, I’ll pass this time,” (if that’s on option, of course). It’s important to not take on more than you can realistically handle.

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