Staying on top of of it all

I ran into a campus friend in the cafe while I was picking up lunch, and we commiserated about the state of our workloads at this point in the year. I said, “I spent my morning dealing with the minutia of running two libraries and having 20 staff who need things, and I have this sense that there are about 15 relatively easy emails I need to send, and all I need is 90 minutes to do that in. But after lunch I have two student appointments, and then I have to go get Gwyneth from daycare because her father has a doctor’s appointment, then when he comes home I’m back to campus for the Presidential Scholar’s dinner… so maybe I’ll have 90 minutes tomorrow?” She understood. We all understand. Yesterday’s to-do list becomes tomorrow’s, and tomorrow’s becomes next week’s, and then suddenly it’s January.

But I’m not giving up. I’m teetering on top of a pile of disorganized to-do items — 32 emails in my inbox that require action (I am staying on top of those, if nothing else), six discrete piles on my desk, a construction project ongoing, two big “don’t screw this up, okay?” campus projects that I’m contributing to and/or leading, and the endless minutia of running two libraries and having 20 staff who, quite reasonably, need things. I’m tired of teetering. I’m tired of thinking I’m probably forgetting something. I’m tired of knowing I’m forgetting something.

So yesterday, on a whim because a friend was offering out codes for free upgrades, I started using Trello. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought that some piece of software was going to solve all my problems… and it probably won’t be the last. But for right now? I’m in love. I’m actually choosing to take the time — time I pretty much don’t have — to set this thing up well, because I think it might really be that useful for me. I have Boards for all my major responsibilities. I have Lists in each Board that represent the major areas of work for each responsibility. I have cards in each list that represent discrete projects or work. And I have checklists on cards so that I can plan, do, and record each step of each task. And I can set due dates. And all of it is accessible as a subscribed calendar, and via an app on my phone, so the tasks get ported in every day to the place I’m most likely to see them and add them.

I think in hierarchies. I think in groupings. I think in categories. I think on the fly, all over the place. And Trello lets me organize my work that way.

And just maybe I’ll feel a little more stable as I perch on top of it all.


borrowing energy

Late November and early December is always a hard time in the academic cycle — the semester is almost over, and everyone’s wearing down, but we haven’t hit the frenetic energy of finals week yet. The pile of things you planned to get to “during the fall semester” or “before the break” or “after Thanksgiving” is staring at you balefully and you’re staring back thinking, “I have to kill it before it develops language skills.” It’s also registration time for students, when they choose classes and projects for next semester — and set up internships. Next semester I will be […] keep reading…

Inbox: manageable

I decided this afternoon that I’m tired of suffering under the tyranny of my email. Here are the new rules I’m going to try out for a while: My email program will only be open when I am actively working with email or away from the office and using email as my communication channel. Every email I’ve read that requires no action will get filed in a monthly folder. Every email that requires action will be flagged with a color-coded flag. At the end of every day I will triage the inbox for rules 2 and 3. I will strive […] keep reading…

the things we can’t discuss

Being an administrator can be deeply alienating. You’re responsible for people, for money, for a community, for services, for the success of all of those… and you’re the only one. You’re still a part of your professional cohort, but you’re not, really. I’m a librarian, but I’m not, really. I’m a part of the team, but I’m not, really. I have a group of colleagues, but I don’t, really. Part of that originates in the truth that there are so many things I can’t talk about. Even more things that I can’t write about. For example, in the last ten […] keep reading…

small communities

This morning when I dropped my daughter off at daycare, Ms. Amanda said, “I don’t think I’ve seen you in jeans, before.” I smiled, and said I only had meetings with library staff and two faculty who already know me well, so I didn’t have to dress for anyone but me today. (Then Gwyneth spit up all over my leg. Baby puke cleans off denim better than wool trousers, anyway.) Not five minutes later, as I sat playing with my girl before going to my office, another parent dropped off his son in the Infant Room. That parent is also […] keep reading…

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