“I Don’t Have The Time.”
Have you said this in a meeting or a discussion with a colleague? Has this rolled off the tongue when confronted with an unexpected change, a new technology, or another initiative?
Many of us are stretched to our limits. I applaud the folks I meet who have absorbed more and more duties as staffing patterns have changed. Just recently, at a meeting of the Council of State Library Agencies in the Northeast in Cape May, NJ, I dined with librarians who were wearing many hats in their evolving institutions and working hard to meet the needs of the agencies they serve.
However, I bristle when I hear the “no time” response, because sometimes I think it’s an excuse. It’s a catch-all phrase to sidestep learning something new, improving processes, or making a needed but oh-so-scary change. It leads me to ask a question in response: What do you actually make time for?
Do you clear your schedule for the pet project you just love? Do you personally handle every detail of your favorite task or responsibility, even when in the back of your mind you realize it might be done better, quicker, faster with some changes or streamlining? Do you hide out in your office or cube furtively reading gossip blogs when the rest of your department is off for development time or training?
Time after time
If you catch yourself at these avoidance activities, stop and consider the underlying reasons. It might be a trap you’ve fallen into before and many folks you say it to are probably quick to back off or drop the discussion when you invoke the buzz of busyness. Henry Ford once said, “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”
Sometimes we respond with “I don’t have time” as an honest reflex and to elude the more difficult task of determining if there is something we should be giving up, or delegating, to make room for this new activity.
Other times, it may look like this: the library development staff works hard to bring a shiny new 23 Mobile Things learning program adaptation to your institution. “I don’t have time to participate,” you say as a department manager. A possible translation: “I don’t need to learn these things, I’m in management.” The research I did on the impact of Learning 2.0 style programs found that staff members take cues from the participation or lack of participation by supervisors and administration. It sets a definite tone if those in charge of the “learning organization” don’t take time to learn themselves.
Moving a process online to save time sounds like a great idea, but it can become a daunting proposition if you don’t feel your tech skills are up to snuff. “My time is very important to me” might translate to a confession that learning a new system is overwhelming and that feels embarrassing. One of the best things we can do is own up to our need for time to learn, explore, and play with technologies that just might not be second nature to us. Put it out there and ask for help but also offer your guidance and expertise to those who might be lacking in those areas as well.
Clock of the heart
It may also be weariness, plain and simple. Let’s call this “Techno-fatigue,” a close cousin to the infamous Techno-stress. One more web form or one more thing to click on—and, yes, I actually heard someone say that in a meeting years ago—may be the last straw in a too-connected, too-techie workflow. Here, we might benefit from some of the mindfulness that comes with reflective practice (see “Reflective Practice,” LJ 1/14, p. 52).
Of course, we’re not really talking about tech here, we’re talking about how people respond to the demands of a constantly changing and evolving workplace.
Going forward, here’s what I hope you’ll make time for in your full and rich days: any opportunity to fine-tune skills, tech and otherwise; a chance to have a conversation with a mentor or mentee—we can learn from being both; or a frank discussion with your team about training needs, developing skills, and managing our most precious resource, the topic of this column. What can we do differently? What delivers the most impact for the minutes and hours we spend? A person’s priorities say more about him/her than most other things.
Measure what you do. Look at the time you spend on every task during your day, during your staff’s day. Where can you save?
Embrace constant change. “I have no time” is another way of saying, “I can’t change, I’m too busy.” Change allows growth, and without growth we will simply be running in circles.
One of my favorite songs reminds us that “time makes you bolder,” and maybe that’s a good thing to remember when someone requests a bit of your time. Be bold and try that new process, new learning opportunity, or new idea. Another line from that same song? “I’ve been afraid of changing….” Don’t let that happen to you.