There’s nothing I love more than a fresh new year. And today the fresh new year takes me back to a fresh new office, which I cleaned with vigour on the Friday before Christmas break. I’ve sure enjoyed lounging around the house, but it will be okay to go back as well, for a number of reasons.
The roles and responsibilities at MPOW are about to shift in some fairly significant ways, and I am really excited to take on some new responsibilities (there are also some new responsibilities I’m less excited about, but I’ll leave those for another time or, more likely, off the agenda altogether). I’m looking forward to new challenges, but I’m also thinking carefully about how to make sure I don’t wind up perpetually running on the “small-scale stuff that needs to be done right now” wheel. I’ve experienced pretty significant workload shifts (in type and amount) before, and that was the first trap I fell into. Unsure of priorities? Answer some emails! Not clear on the end-goal of the document you’re trying to put together? Prep for a meeting!
Have you read Cal Newport’s blog? I am a bit of a productivity junkie and yup, reading about productivity is a thing I love to do, along with making task lists, and organizing folders and scheduled in preparation for some big project. As many, many people have observed: this is frequently just a form of procrastination. Productivity has its own subreddit, and one could spend a lot of time reading about other people having trouble getting things done.
But I find Newport’s blog really good because his big picture thoughts on being a productive and creative person are always accompanied by examples from his own work life, and concrete plans for readers to work through. In particular, his blog post on ‘deep work’ really hit home (the title will either make you flustered, relieved, or annoyed, but if you haven’t read it, do take a look at Knowledge Workers are Bad at Working). I have a job where it’s very easy to fall into what he calls “Shallow Work.” Some shallow work falls under my actual job description, but it’s also very easy to just putter along doing shallow work while leaving larger projects to the side:
“This work is attractive because it’s easy, which makes use feel productive, and it’s rich in personal interaction, which we enjoy.”
And then it’s 5:30 and you haven’t done any of the ‘deep work.’ You know: strategizing, research, writing
“…cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve.”
…the stuff you feel you love to do, but that you just couldn’t seem to get around to that day…
You can read Newport’s thoughts on how to actually get down to deep work in the link above. I found the framework pretty compelling.
Anyway, as I head back to my sparkling new desk, I’m making a commitment to doing stuff that is hard this year. But I promise to still respond to your email.
P.S. This ACRL blog post, Lost Time is Never Found by Lindsay O’Neill, was what spurred my latest round of productivity reading. It is excellent, and emphasizes the importance of scheduling deep work in academic librarianship, especially when you’re in a new, emerging, or oft-changing position where it’s up to you to define a lot of your workload and outcomes. More scheduling in 2015!