Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Didn't Check My Email (and Lived to Tell the Tale)

Vacation! No emails in sight...
This past October, I had the pleasure of taking Marge Loch-Waters's online youth services management class and I wanted to post about one small thing I'm trying to put into practice:

Your email does not have to own you. 

On last week's vacation, I made a pact to myself that I would not check my work email. I'm often so tempted to log in, even just to delete the hundreds of ads I know will be waiting in my inbox. But even if it's mostly ads, there's always something I need to respond to. Maybe it's something I can respond to or forward right away, maybe it's something I need to star and come back to later. But logging in when I'm supposed to be off work just lets it into my head. 

And, especially in a career when SO MANY OF US struggle to find a balance between life and work, it's important to know that you can draw a line. I still thought about checking it at least once a day while I was away, but I made a conscious decision not to log in, not to let that email encroach on my vacation time.

Guess what?

Everything was fine. My staff held down the fort. They knew that if something important came up, they could call me. And when I finally did log in to my email, out of over 100 emails, only about 20 of them had information I needed or items I needed to respond to.

Don't let your email run your life (or ruin your vacation)! Keep these things in mind:

  • It was pointed out in my management class that no one expects an instant response to an email. If something that urgent is happening, someone will call or text you.
  • You can set an auto-response so that anyone who does email you will know who to contact if they need a response more quickly. I always make sure to set mine up, particularly because I will sometimes get school collection requests emailed directly to me and those can be time-sensitive.
  • No one minds you taking a vacation. If someone does mind, she's probably not a nice person. You're probably being conscientious about scheduling your vacation time to create the least disturbance and to make sure everything is covered or breaks are well-advertised. You earn that time off as part of your salary. Take it!
  • And you need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your patrons. The burned-out, no-rest librarian can all-too-easily turn into the bitter, resentful librarian and not the welcoming, flexible paragon of customer service that your patrons deserve. If you're checking in twice a day while you're on vacation, are you really getting the rest you need? 

Even now that I'm back to work, I'm trying to wean myself of the habit of checking my email first thing in the morning and constantly throughout the day. Yes, I like the idea of being available to teachers and patrons and colleagues so that working with me is super easy and awesome. But, as suggested by one of my management classmates, I'm making an effort to check off a couple things on my to-do list in the morning before I check my email. I'm trying to consciously close my inbox when I'm not actively working on email, which results in a lot fewer interruptions. 

So, take stock of your email habits. If you feel like your email is owning you, maybe it's time to rethink some things. 

(Super thank-you goes out to Marge Loch-Waters and all of my awesome YS Management classmates! I'm finding lots of ways to implement what I've learned in that class!)