It’s Okay Not to Have Time

by Zack Frazier

I know it seems really whiny, but it seems that these days I just don’t have any time. I feel constantly overwhelmed and no matter how much I do, I have a hard time keeping all my balls in the air. I know that I’m not alone in feeling this. In fact it seems like many of my friends in their last year, and especially those in their last term, have run into similar issues.

I think there are several factors that contribute to it. Our degree programs are for professional degrees and many have a practicum requirement. By our last terms many of us are either volunteering regularly, interning, or working in a library environment, which means that much of our day is spent working. On top of that I’ve noticed that by the time library-schoolers get into their last term they are largely taking extremely specialized classes. Unlike many cursory introduction classes these tend to have a more complicated and often a larger workload. If you’re doing things right (in my humble opinion), you should also be involved in some sort of organization, whether its the local SLA chapter or your student group.  In short, you just don’t have any time.

So how do you get by?

I think the first thing to do is realize that it’s OK to not have a life (for 4 months). Be honest with the people who matter to you. Maximize the quality of time you’re spending with people, even if you have to cut back on the quantity. Realizing that this is a stressful time and accepting it is the first step to getting through. Once you know your situation, you can take steps to maximize your quality of life.

One step to take is maximizing your time management. Learning these skills now will be a great carry-over into your professional life. David Allen and Tim Ferris are two authors who come to mind who have written about ways to increase your efficiency and manage your time well. There’s also the great blog LifeHacker, which has lots of tips for making your life more streamlined while increasing your quality of life.

In terms of other techniques, I recommend keeping an up-to-date task list. Nearly all of the most effective librarians I know use a to-do list. If you have a smart device, there is a host of apps you can use. Two that I’ve used to great effect in my own life are “Do it Tomorrow” and “Astrid.” Do It Tomorrow is a notebook interface that gives you a two-day framework for tasks. Astrid is a cloud and social networking to do list. I like it because it syncs between several of my other services and is a bit annoying, which makes me pay attention to it. People also like Evernote as an organizer, but it’s so multifaceted I tend to lose my to do lists in with the other notes.

Learning to say “no” is also important. Librarians are an enthusiastic, helpful, and agreeable lot; which normally means we get walked all over. Learning to say “no” is tough, but now is the time to learn! Too often librarians are told to make more with less. Right now you have less time, but people want you to do more with it. It’s ok to tell someone that while you think their idea is great, you don’t have the time to help them out. This isn’t a call or an excuse for laziness. Its a call for responsibility. Its a lot easier to explain to someone that you’re too busy and can’t commit to doing something than to explain why you dropped the ball.

Finally, I think it’s important to remember to make time for yourself. Having a personal space that you can be selfish about can be a much needed isle of sanity in the barely managed chaos. I’m trying to make sure that I get time to go to the gym. My friend has set aside a yoga class or two and has Mondays as a personal day. Whether it’s a day off, a coffee break, or walking your dog, making “me” space is a good way to give yourself time to relax and reflect.

If you’re as busy as I’ve become, you’re probably already thinking about the above. Good luck, and remember we’re almost to the finish line!