Nevertheless, He’s Anxious

anxiety

As you can see from my previous post, it’s been an up-and-down year for me. Equal parts joyous and difficult. Right now, things are going well for me. I’m being productive at work. My biggest problems are that I have another two positions to fill, one planned and one not. Those searches are both in process. The planned open position is a newly created one that fills out my staff and gives us redundancy. The unplanned one came up when one of my staff — how should I say this? — decided to seek their fortune elsewhere.

It’s unethical for me to get into the details, but the staff member’s departure both creates and relieves headaches for me. I’m optimistic that it’s more relief than not. Things are going well. I feel like now I have no significant roadblocks between me and complete success.

Which is exactly what keeps me up at night.

sleepless bugs bunny

Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself, but it seems like every time something good happens in my life I seize the opportunity and tarnish it. Three steps forward and two steps back. Very soon, I will have a staff almost entirely hired by me. My boss seems generally happy with my work. I’m treated with respect by my professional peers in the library. And I have friends and colleagues I can go to when I need to. It seems that everything is going my way. What then am I going to screw up next?

Lately, the very existence of this blog has been a source of anxiety. Librarianship is a very small community. What happens if I don’t obscure people’s identities enough? What happens if I write something I think is innocuous, but turns out to be professional suicide? What if, even though I don’t make money at this blog — actually, I pay money for this blog — it is found and considered a conflict of interest?

I’m generally very good at compartmentalizing work from the rest of my life. At most, during off hours, weekends, or vacations, I’ll check my work email for major updates, but not more, and I don’t put work emails in the same feed as my personal emails. I actually use three different email products on my phone. Apple Mail for personal, Gmail for work, and GMX for my spam. Ne’re the thrain shall meet.

But the last two Sunday nights, regardless of how tired I am or any other conditions, I’ve had trouble sleeping, and the sleep I have gotten has been thin. I keep fearing what failure I’ll commit next, or which failure I’ve already committed that hasn’t caught up with me yet. How am I going to screw up next? This, when everything else seems to be going so well.

To help avoid the self-inflicted wounds one thing I’ve been trying out this week and last is a simplified bullet journal technique for my workday. If you’ve not heard of bullet journalling before, it’s a way to keep track of your accomplishments without writing a prosaic traditional journal. I first tried it in early 2017 (I think) and gave it a two week trial. In that effort I was trying to keep myself accountable for my whole life, basically, and I found that ultimately, while it was an effective way to keep yourself honest, I really couldn’t justify the amount of time I was spending simply updating the journal and prepping for the next day. It wasn’t for me.

This time, however, I’ve scaled it back considerably. I’m only worrying about my workday, for one. I found an old planner in my desk drawers left by a predecessor and note the date. I then note the known items I want to accomplish throughout the day with bullet points, crossing off each with an X after I do them, a slash for items that I’ve worked on but are continuing projects, and and infinity symbol after the item if it’s a task I want to do everyday. That’s as elaborate as I’m getting. See YouTube for examples of how elaborate some people get. Like I said, I simply don’t have time for that. Here’s an example of what a bullet journal may look like:

Monday, June 25, 2018

  • Update Stats  oo   X
  • Professional Reading  oo
  • Update Schedule  oo  X
  • Schedule Phone Interviews    /
  • Set Locations for Phone Interviews   /

So, in this example — I’m using “oo” for the infinity symbol — I accomplished the easy stuff. I updated the stats from the weekend and set the circ desk schedule for the coming weeks. These I do regularly. I began but did not complete the process of scheduling and assigning locations for telephone interviews for an open position, but I never got to my professional reading. Who does, really?

Notice what I don’t do, here, I’m not prioritizing anything. I make the lists as they come to me and executing them when I can as much as I can to the best of my ability. Because it’s a paper planner, I can carry it with me all day and always have it available when I need to add something, regardless of connectivity issues. I don’t have to use some fancy project management software to set or realize goals. I live on my phone as much as everyone else does, but for this problem, I really wanted a low tech solution. This is my fifth workday using this technique, and so far, it’s working. It’s giving me a tangible resource to manage my anxiety about my ability to perform my position as best as I can.

In my experience, anxiety and depression don’t get cured. They dissipate. They go into remission, but they always come back. My anxiety, this time, is all about being afraid of myself. It’s all about fearing what I’m going to do next to ruin or diminish my good position. I still have a lot to learn about being a manager and a leader. I still have a lot of trust to build in my staff. I need to improve my consistency and build a consistent service model that reflects the realities of my patron base. That all takes time. I will make mistakes. My fear is not in making mistakes, i.e. trying things that don’t work. My fear is making the unforced errors; losing my temper or not acting when action is necessary that will come back to haunt me and make a mess of what could be a highly successful role at this job.

In the meantime, I just need to check myself.

 

PS: I actually did my professional reading today! Woot!

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