Do As I Say, Not As I Do

by Dean Duane Strojny

Vacations are a wonderful time to recharge and recover from the day-to-day grind of an academic library. Taking the past week off was good for my batteries. After figuring out that I really needed to disconnect from technology to have a good time, the time off was great. Ultimately, I have returned to my desk with a new perspective and someone even noticed today that I seemed more energetic! You would think I already knew this. I did but needed to remind myself of the old phrase we all have heard many times. This post might be just what you need if any of the circumstances outlined in my first list below are something you have experienced. Keep reading to see if anything I offer up as options for you might work to help refresh and recharge.

During the first few days of the week, these are the emails that sucked me into the workplace web via my cell phone:

  1. Answer an early Sunday morning email from my boss. Yes, it was timestamped Sunday, March 3, 6:47 a.m.!
  2. Dealt with a space scheduling issue that I swear we had already resolved with the campus event coordinator.
  3. Wrote a message of appreciation for a reference librarian moving on to greener pastures (and leaving a position we will not fill immediately).
  4. Responded to two faculty members concerned about the fact that their library liaison was leaving (see #3 above). They questioned who could help them with both offering suggestions including one giving me the name of someone who does not work here. After 20 years, you think he would know the name of the reference librarian he wants to be his liaison!
  5. Analyzed a message from a colleague that questioned whether the library was meeting ABA standards. This left me a little confused since they have never worked in a library of any sort and I cannot remember when I didn’t!

By Wednesday morning, I decided I needed to actually check out some. So, I limited myself to looking at email only once per day. The following things occurred that helped me relax:

  1. Taking long walks on the beach every day. At least an hour is good to really clear the mind.
  2. Searching for shark’s teeth. This really can distract you since you have to pay close attention to the surf and not a clock.
  3. Eating dinner at a favorite local restaurant. Comfort foods and excellent seafood can take your mind off those dull eat-at-my-desk lunches.
  4. Watching some MeTV. Old black and white sitcoms were not that bad and there is nothing like any of them on television today.
  5. Spending time with family and friends. Conversation about anything and everything but work is actually fun.

All this goes to say that time away from the library is ultimately time well spent. There were plenty of issues to address back in the office today. No one was seriously hurt and nothing severely damaged during my week off. Some of the same problems have always been problems and likely will continue to be, so I just need to remember that unplugging once in a while is not only good for me, but also those people I work with.

I realize that not everyone has the opportunity to escape to the beach (or an equally relaxing place), but it does a person good to escape somehow. Here are a few suggestions that you likely can fit into your super busy schedule:

  1. Read a chapter a day of a book during your lunch. Even if it is at your desk, this is a nice way to disengage and refresh for at least a little bit every day.
  2. Take a walk around the building. Use the steps and tour every floor. I tend not to visit with staff, but use the opportunity to say hello to students. It is a nice change of scenery.
  3. Schedule lunch with a colleague. Make it with someone you ordinarily would not interact with. While this is not in the nature of most librarians, it is a really good way to get a new perspective on things in the office and connect to work in a new way. Note that if it is someone who usually seems in a good mood some of their positivity might just rub off on you.
  4. Drink more water! It is easy and most of us don’t do this. The recommendations about water consumption vary, but a water bottle or two during the course of the day can actually make you feel better. I like mine cold and on ice! Instead of a snack that can weigh you down, water serves to replenish and has positive health benefits.
  5. Try some yoga stretches. Get up from your desk and stretch for a few minutes. It is like a yawn for your body. You will sit down again at your desk awakened and recharged.

So, even with a vacation that was off to a sad start on the relaxation scale, I realized that I needed to do what I tell my colleagues all the time. Relax. Take a break. Recharge. Follow my own advice and that which I had heard from many supervisors over the years.  Do as I say, not as I do!

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