Pat S. was giving me a talking to at the party last night about the adverse health effects of getting overextended. "You've got to learn to say 'no' more often... You've got to be careful about how much you take on..." I've gotten that message from a couple of other quarters in recent weeks and it's true that I did become stretched a little thin this spring. But it's all been interesting and worthwhile. (Like I was going to say "No" when Tone gave me the opportunity to go talk to the Elsevier managers? Or I was going to turn Bonnie MacEwan down when she asked me to come to her library and be the speaker for her Library Week celebration?)
As I told Pat, I always try to be sure that I build in recharging time. It's been years since I thought of myself as having a "work-week" that ran for a contiguous nine or ten hours a day five days a week. Now I make use of the entire 24x7. But this doesn't mean that I work any more hours, I think, than somebody in my position might have twenty-five years ago. I just spread those hours around differently. The technology makes it possible. So, for example, when I went to DC for the new director's seminar, I went in a day early, and took Monday to go see the Hokusai show, and revisit Cezanne and Dada at the NGA, and linger with those marvelous little Whistlers at the Freer. During breaks in the meetings, and late in the evenings, on the following days, I kept up with email and a couple of other projects as well.
As wireless becomes increasingly ubiquitous, I can do much of what I need to do from wherever I am. And the multi-tasking that is supposedly the hallmark of the millennial kids has been second nature as long as I can remember (my favorite current example being at the NLM planning panel meeting awhile back when MJ and I, sitting at opposite ends of the long conference table, were actively participating in the discussion at hand, while also emailing each other about some of the AAHSL committee work that we're engaged in).
On Tuesday, Lynn and I will drive to Savannah. The Bearded Pigs are providing the pre- and post-banquet entertainment at the Off Campus Library Services conference (which has a great program, by the way). I'll bring the laptop and work happily for several hours each day from the hotel room. We'll take a little time to explore some of Savannah. And I'll spend several hours playing music with friends.
We talk about "work-life balance" as if these are competing interests. But what we really need is a fully integrated life. I was talking with one of the seminar attendees about this. There is always more work to do and if you're not careful, you can burn yourself out. So you have to be disciplined about building in the time for those things that revivify you. Some people need to get completely away -- take a few days off from email and phone calls and work worries -- to recharge. That's never been my style. The library is never far from my thoughts, and I like it that way. At some level I'm always trying to figure out the next step or resolve some dilemma or see my way to some creative way of addressing the next challenge. What keeps me fresh is the variety -- to explore a new city for a couple of hours, or pop into a splendid museum, or see a great unknown local punk band in some dive -- and then get back to the laptop, the email, the projects at hand.
A few months after my dad died, my Mom came to St. Louis to stay for a few weeks. She came to the library to see where I worked and what I did there, and she came to the Venice Cafe when I was playing music, and she walked along with the crew in the Soulard Mardi Gras parade. Near the end of the trip she said that the different parts of my life made sense to her now, that she hadn't quite been able to see, from a distance, how it all fit together, but that watching me day to day, in all of my various aspects, she could see how it all worked.
Which doesn't mean, of course, that it's not still a challenge to avoid getting overextended, and I am determined to lighten up the travel schedule some in the coming months. Maybe I can spend more time just tackling three things at once rather than four...