Revitalizing your spirit and drive, and your enthusiasm for information retrieval and research is a never-ending battle. It requires conscious effort to shift from work to home and back again.
In a world where it is difficult to disconnect from work and work responsibilities, it is crucial to take time every day to revitalize your energy and enthusiasm and avoid career-killing boredom and burnout. Developing a routine to shift from work to home is essential for a healthy, fulfilling, and well-rounded life in or out of the office.
How many of us have talked about unwinding after work and yet never do, never take the time to pause and reset our brains and our focus on home and our personal passions? It’s hard to pry that downtime, that revitalization time, out of our busy lives. So schedule it. Add 10 minutes to the end of your day or leave 10 minutes earlier for work. Take the extra 10 minutes to do something for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. It’s your “revitalization” time.
When I was teaching, especially when my work shifted from in-person to online, I designated Fridays as “my time.” I wasn’t always successful at keeping the day free for me but I did go for lots of lunches with friends and took time to read widely. I always find myself refreshed on Sundays. Designate your own “my time” and keep it free for yourself. Think of it as uninterrupted time to read a little longer.
Build up your revitalization time from once a week to every day. Block out the time just the way you would a regular meeting or a task and stick to it. It might take a year to realize that you’ve built up an unwind routine. Stick to your schedule and it will become second nature. You’ll wonder how you ever managed without time for yourself.
As exciting as the information profession is, sometimes we need a little revitalization, a spark to challenge us again. If that’s how you feel, then it’s time to learn something new.
- Pick a small skill or create a defined project and delve into it. As you research and read, consider what sparks your curiosity. Feed your curiosity and let it revitalize your interest in information retrieval.
- Read a work of fiction or non-fiction, read a poem or short story, or just pick up a journal article. Make uninterrupted time to not only delve into a subject but explore the footnotes and follow tangential leads.
As you focus on the new skill or knowledge, you’ll glean the rewards. Learning something new will add a spark to your life as you grow professionally.
The divide between work and home
Many of us build our lives around work, around our professional identities. We are continually connected to work, to the information center, to our research projects and those of our clients. Even in our off hours, we think and talk about our work and what is on our plates for tomorrow or the week. We find it difficult to put the phone down, to disconnect from the internet, from our professional identities and obligations, and just relax.
Here are some ways to create a divide between work and not work, between professional responsibilities and our internal health and personal passions. It’s important to differentiate between work and home, and turn off the work.
- Take a walk on the way home. Get out of the car, bus, or train and walk around the block. If you live in a walkable city, you could even get off one stop earlier or later and walk the rest of the way home. Smell the flowers and look at the beauty around you rather than your phone. While walking put your phone on silent or better yet, leave it somewhere safe so you won’t distract yourself.
- Stop at the library for a new book. Hundreds of books are released every month. Check out a new work of fiction or non-fiction, borrow a DVD you’ve always wanted to watch. Or just peruse the shelves and look for a book you’ve been wanting to dive into. If you can’t find or make time at home to read, then set an alarm for 15 or 30 minutes while at the library, bookstore, or coffee shop, and delve into a book, read a magazine. Revel in some downtime where you actually focus on the written word.
- Have coffee or a drink with friends after work. Call a friend or neighbor and chat about the weather, about the neighborhood, or about life. Catch up on the little things. Just unwind and smell the fragrant coffee, tea, or beer. Put your feet up and talk about anything but work.
- Do Yoga or meditate. Spend some time focused on your breathing and your posture. Stretch out muscles that are tense from typing and research. Be introspective, even for five minutes. It’s easy, set an alarm, close your eyes, and think about absolutely nothing. Okay, it’s harder than you think and yet it’s refreshing.
- Unplug. Charge your phone when you get home and leave it until morning. Don’t turn on e-mail or the internet until morning and tune into your personal life. Add the “do not disturb” and “Sleep” functions to your phone and computer. Take a breath and focus on the world beyond your screens.
Unwinding from work is essential for preventing career burnout. Spending just a few minutes to shift gears from work to home life adds vitality to your day. Finding the right transition isn’t easy. That transition provides tangible results, easing the shift from work to home, from information seeking tasks to enjoying learning a new subject, embracing a new hobby, or just bonding with family and friends.
Summing it up
As we mature within our profession, it’s essential we routinely revitalize our passion for information and research. Taking time to differentiate, to draw a line between work and home is crucial in our ever busy, ever demanding lives, especially if we telecommute (more on that in our next column). Take time to unwind daily, to revitalize regularly, and you’ll continue to be passionate about being an information professional for your entire career.
My next blog post will provide suggestions for revitalizing or separating work from home for telecommuters.
Miriam Kahn, MLS, PhD
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Special librarians working remotely need a self-directed, continuing professional development plan; it’s key to staying fresh, engaged, and alert