Let’s Start the New Year Right

Happy New Year, Dear Reader.  While the Gregorian calendar says I’m tardy in that declaration, many of us probably feel the new year started a couple weeks ago.

At long last, we conclude 2020, a year that will in infamy.  What will we remember?  Yale’s Fred Shapiro assembled the notable quotes for The Yale Book of Quotations, and he commented, “Most things said are pretty awful.”  My 2020 memories include the Toilet Paper Value Calculator Pro, contemplating what Examsoft considers a “natural hand gesture,” and, well, that’s just the light-hearted stuff.

But what’s next? 

Sadly (though expectedly), we already know that we won’t meet for the AALL annual conference in Cleveland this coming July.  Last summer, if I had assembled a list of things I’m looking forward to in 2021 (a blog post topic I wanted to pen in December but just couldn’t complete), an in-person AALL would have certainly made the cut.  However, instead of mourning no FastCase suite on the Cuyahoga River, I’ve instead started to plot dragging my reference office colleagues up a high mountain in the Sawatch Range after the 2022 Denver AALL conference.  Yes, that’s more than eighteen months away, but I need something to look forward to.

The hiking plans reminded me of a favorite Law Library Journal article, Georgia Briscoe’s “Climb High: High Altitude Mountaineering Lessons for Librarians.”  Briscoe discusses the similarities between high altitude mountaineering and law librarianship and how she applied nine lessons from the former to the latter.  While expecting bad weather might be one lesson relevant to our remaining time in pandemic conditions (and I mean “weather” in a figurative sense, not the white stuff that so easily disables the D.C. area), the lesson of being motivated for the goal is what I’ve been contemplating.  Briscoe writes:

Whatever the goal, motivate yourself! In the Employee Handbook of New Work Habits, one of the important ground rules for job success in the information age is to ‘manage your own morale.’”

Motivating myself and maintaining morale when I don’t know when I’ll receive a vaccine and return to some normalcy will be a challenge.  One strategy I’m testing is “mental reframing,” a term I learned in a recent Washington Post article.  The Scandinavians reframe by spending time outside and appreciating the winter months by seeing the opportunities presented.  While the Post article discusses mental reframing in the context of Scandinavians dealing with long winters, a Psychology Today post discusses its application to our Covid hibernation.  The author’s reframing emphasis is on seizing opportunities to tackle new projects and projects long postponed.

Unknowingly, I recently executed a mental reframing of sorts.  As a sometimes distance runner I’ve been in a rut for a while.  During most of 2020 my daily run was plodding along for 4-5 miles without any aim.  Now with some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the pandemic, I decided to target a December marathon.  Since choosing that goal, my workouts have been more productive.  My stride has more purpose and I’m definitely taking advantage of not spending ninety minutes commuting each weekday.

Are there lessons from distance running to be applied to law librarianship?  Well, running is primarily a solitary activity and the best librarianship is definitely not a solo act.  If you skip a running workout, you’re only accountable to yourself and a supervisor isn’t going to dock you in a performance review.  You’re just going to be slower on race day with only yourself to blame.

Where I do see a potential lesson is that the best runners plan out their training months—even years—in advance.  See, for example, Eliud Kipchoge.  While my job duties will always include some uncertainty of a new project or unexpected request, I know I need to have a better outline for the current semester.  For example, the coming weeks will be primarily dedicated to teaching in our LRWA program.  After the final week of teaching, I need a concrete April goal—whether that’s a deeper dive into libgudies, producing more videos, or designing a curriculum for a proposed class.  Granted, I don’t need a highly structured Lydiard periodization, but I need to avoid the library equivalent of dutifully plodding along for four miles without a long-term goal in mind. 

I’m hoping this will help me in 2021—as well as the runner’s ability to endure discomfort!  Please leave a comment if you’d like to share your 2021 strategies. 

This entry was posted in Career, Current Events, Issues in Librarianship (generally), Planning, Productivity, Time Management, Work/Life Balance and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Let’s Start the New Year Right

  1. Karen Selden says:

    Love your latest post, John! From climbing Colorado mountains, to Georgia’s LLJ article (one of the top 100 of the first 100 years of LLJ!), to Lydiard periodization, this all rang true to me. Hope to see you in Denver in 2022 — and maybe climb one of those peaks in the Sawatch Range with you. Best wishes in 2021!!

  2. 802050david says:

    Hi John. I may be one of the few librarians who understands “Lydiard periodization” without looking it up…:-) I remember seeing him here in Boulder around 2000 shortly before he left us. One of the lessons from running and racing that has been beneficial to me and could apply to work is the idea of resiliency…. taking stock of the situation and adjusting to make the best of it. Kind of like re-grouping around mile 17 in a marathon to plan for the best outcome. I am opening the door a crack to take a look at a potential librarian position at Presidio… finding I still have a bit of passion for information services and sustainability…
    I look forward to your next post.
    Your friend, David

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