On brainstorming & committing

Be warned – this is a self reflection post so it feels very “me” focused.  There are “I”s scattered all over the place!  Hopefully you, dear readers, get something out of it or feel there’s something to respond to.  Otherwise, sorry!  🙂

I am an enthusiastic brainstormer.  Especially when I get excited about some idea, a common occurrence.  I feed off that wisp of energy emanating from a person who is beginning to work through something in their mind.  My first instinct is to say “Yes yes! Tell me more!  How can we make this happen?”

This is a blessing and a curse, I tell you.  For the most part this is, as I say, a blessing:  I enjoy these conversations, I feel happy about my day when I have them, I feel good about myself when I think I have helped someone accomplish something creative or new, and usually learn quite a bit from them.  When can it be a curse?  When I over-commit.  Oh and I am an over-committer.  I am a very bad offender of this egregious issue and always have been.  I get so excited by brainstorming with people that I often volunteer to do things: oh yes!  I will help you write that up; I will look into that data for you; I will… etc.  This is fine – it’s very good to be a team player, but if it gets in the way of other work that’s a problem.

Thankfully, this year, however, our professional goals process here at the library are helping me acknowledge that I have this tendency AND helping me realize what my true priorities are.

So for example, a few months ago I saw someone write a post on an email list whose name I recognized.  I had cited him in a paper I wrote!  So I wrote him to say “Cool paper, we cited you!”  To which he responded something to the effect of “Thank you!  Also, would you be interested in being on more papers on this topic unrelated to the topic of the paper you mentioned?”  I was thisclose to saying “um, SURE!” and then I had an epiphany moment:  no no no.  This topic is very interesting but I have ways to plug into that work here at my library.  I do not need to sign up for something that will result in a publication because that’s just not one of my goals at the moment.  I do not need to sign up for something that will take away from the other more important uses of my time (e.g. developing a plan for integrating information literacy into our psychology curriculum).  So, I declined.  It felt good.

Unfortunately, I’m still not there yet.  Another “for example”:  I found myself on a college-wide committee that is turning out to be more work than I anticipated and I’m not feeling like I am doing it justice.  I’m not sure exactly how to fix this:  once our big thing is written I can scale back my volunteering within the committee or attempt to leave it entirely?  There’s no set term limit that I can see.  We shall see – this one may be a wait it out.

Now what?  Well, I have definitely started to label moments of brainstorming (verbally!) as they are happening.  This is a good start.  From here, I have started to say to myself – alright, this is a brainstorm.  Do you really want to commit to anything coming out of this?  If so, what limits might you place on that?  Maybe none?  Maybe a lot?  In general, I think it’s okay to be wrong about “hey, this seems like one of those times I can say no!” because just the practice of saying no is hard to get into for me.  Still, I never want to go overboard towards the other direction:  it’s still fun to say yes and try new things.

In some ways, there is a connection to be drawn between this kind of back-and-forth in my brain about small and medium commitments that add up to a lot of time for maybe not the best overall wise use of my time with the tension between scheduling a lot of one-shot instruction sessions and lamenting the fact that there is no time or energy left to infuse a department’s curriculum with higher quality information literacy work.  I think it’s a matter of scale – we’re (I’m?) looking at the small picture:  my fun brainstorm & ensuing tasks; the one-shots all the faculty are asking for) and saying “Good! These things are fun, good and needed!  People are asking for them!”  But in doing so, there is less time and energy for the larger landscape:  how do I make sure that at the end of the year, I’ve really re-thought XYZ or re-imagined and planned out something valuable at a deeper level in terms of information literacy within and across curricula?

Just drawing that connection right now makes me hopeful that I will keep pondering these issues as I weigh little moments during the day against long term goals – be they personal or professional.

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