Early Literacy Messages in Action: My Favorite Part

Early Literacy Messaging Graphic

If you were on Twitter last night you might have seen me having a minor case of nerves about this post! I very happily agreed to be part of @Jbrary’s Early Literacy Messages in Action blog tour, then promptly went on vacation. By the time I got back, so many fabulous librarians had already posted their amazing thoughts that I seriously was stuck for a bit wondering what else to add to the conversation. So thanks to Angie, Jbrary, Katie, Mary, and Anna for their ideas & encouragement!

First, go read everyone else on the blog tour. The round up post is at Jbrary and is going live today, and I enjoyed & learned from every single entry. There’s so much I agree with: connecting messages with activities in storytime, sharing your own enthusiasm, practicing your delivery, encouraging parents & caregivers, being flexible & responsive to the group that day. Lots of great tips!

I’m not going to reiterate those things right now, though I may be tempted to come back to them in future posts! Today, I’d like to share about my favorite part of my literacy message and why I think it is so important.

My messages are based on a message template that I created several years ago for storytime staff to use at my library. I presented a poster session at the 2013 ALA Annual on our template, and you can read a little more about it and download a handout with the template and examples at the conference site. I had a chance to expand on the poster session in an article in Children & Libraries (The article uses the same examples as the handout, but tells a little more about how & why I put the template together as I did.)

tl;dr…Here’s the template:

Parents, when you do this activity,
your children learn this early literacy skill.
This helps them become a good reader because what we know from research.
Doing this early literacy practice with your children will help them get ready to read!

With the italics filled in, it sounds like this:

Parents, when you sing lots of songs with your children,
they learn some words that we don’t use in regular conversations.
This will help them become a good reader because kids with big vocabularies have an easier time understanding what they read.
Singing with your child will help them get ready to read!

Now that you’ve read the other blog posts, you’ll recognize that many other storytime providers have also hit on the “when you do this/your children learn that” construction, which is awesome. The part I like best in our template though is the next phrase: “This will help them become a good reader because…”

Why do I like this so much? I like it because it reaches back and allows me to connect with the content, if not the vocabulary, of the research behind the ECRR1 six skills. I like it because I know a lot of parents and caregivers are genuinely curious about their children’s cognitive development and how the heck anyone ever manages to learn to read, let alone LITTLE KIDS. And I like it because I think specificity is intriguing and personal and motivating.

For instance, if you told me, “Mel, exercising 20 minutes a day is good for you!” I would believe you, but come on, I’m also supposed to floss and eat 38 servings of veggies and meditate and drink plenty of fluids and yeah sometimes exercising just doesn’t happen. Now what if you told my storytime moms that exercising would help them hold their babies longer without discomfort and told my two teens that exercising would increase their cardio for marching band camp and told me that exercising would help me sleep better at night? Now you’ve given us information that is intriguing because it connects with us as individuals and motivating because it is personal.

Everyone is different and comes to their time caring for kids with different backgrounds and motivations and information. If my messages start to sound the same, if they start to sound pretty much all like, “Read to your kids because it’s so good for them!” or “Singing helps your kids get ready to read!” then as true as those messages are, I believe I will wind up missing opportunities to connect with as many different parents and caregivers as I can and hook as many as possible with a rationale that means something to THEM and will help keep them motivated for doing all these cool early literacy activities.

I want the mom with ADD to perk up when I talk about kids learning through movement AND WHY. I want the dad who doesn’t read English very well to hear that his sharing wordless books will still help his daughter AND WHY. I want the grandma who watches all 4 of her grandkids to feel good about singing to them when she can’t sit and read with them all AND WHY. The more specific messages I share, the more I increase my chances of dropping just the right message in just the right ear at just the right time.

A lot of my parents have been with me for months (if not years, as they bring 2nd and 3rd children to baby storytime). They’ve heard a lot of my messages already. But those storytime pros will still make a point to talk with me after storytime about a particular message that has resonated with them that day. I have had new parents say out loud, involuntarily, “Really?” or “Wow!” after a message. I have had parents just jump right in and ask a question about something I’ve said, right in the middle of baby storytime. These comments make my day and they are why I keep that “because” phrase in as many of my messages as I can.

So, to wrap up, here’s a real, live message from storytime last month. This is in a baby storytime, which for us is 0-24 months. In this storytime, my literacy message was given after my first book. When I introduced the book I said, “This book is a book that my mom read to me when *I* was a little girl.” (It really is the actual book I had as a kid–sometimes I show them where my mom wrote my name on the front inside cover.) My message after the book loops back to that idea, of sharing personal favorites with your kids. It was written to connect both with the “Reading” practice and the “Print Motivation” skill.

MZD Literacy Tip from MelissaZD on Vimeo.

Almost every one of my Baby Storytime plan posts here on Mel’s Desk has a literacy message included, for more real life examples–no other videos though!

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It’s Not May…

…it’s Mayhem.

At least, that’s what we say at my house when we get to the end of the school year!

And here I am, not posting again.

This time it’s the fault of the spring and summer schedule: my first time arranging the new team to cover a significant portion of our summer reading program school visits, most of the end-of-the-year preschool library field trips, plus creating a weekly summer schedule that accommodates a series of new Saturday storytime programs in June, July, and August, while providing assistance for four major SRP events. And desk support. And vacations. And a maternity leave. And about 60 storytimes a week.

I’ll get back to Mel’s Desk, but have to be realistic and say that I don’t know when…it may not be until after Annual.

So many thanks for your patience.

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Early Literacy & Libraries Brainstorming Activity, Part II

Last week I blogged about a brainstorming activity I shared with a group of LIS students for an “Early Childhood Materials & Services” class. The activity was intended to help the brainstorm ways they might add support for early literacy to their children’s areas, programs, & services, in addition to storytime.

ECMSPopsticks

The second part of the activity was to give them a list of programs & ideas already in place in different libraries, and to have them identify the early literacy skills, practices, and service areas they saw in each one. Again, the point is not to be too fussy or exact, or worry about right or wrong answers, but to gain confidence in looking for and articulating connections to early literacy across many youth services domains. This fluency can help us promote existing programs and services and advocate for new ones.

Here are just a few of the cool things I shared, with a short comment for each.

SPACES

Facelift, from Future Librarian Superhero
This quick idea is actually very robust…here Anna is supporting Talking, Playing, Reading, Print Awareness, Background Knowledge (the emotional literacy piece), all outside of the children’s area.

CONTENT

Storyblocks
Storyblocks is an initiative of Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy, who combined the concept of fingerplay, songs, and rhyme video instruction with early literacy messaging to caregivers. Children and caregivers can watch the videos together and enjoy Singing and Playing, while the caregivers learn about each of the six early literacy skills.

MATERIALS

Kitlit Reorg 2009: The Reorganization of the Children’s Library at Darian Library
Gretchen Caserotti’s team spearheaded a movement to sort picture book collections into broad subject categories. Depending on the categories chosen, this strategy can support early literacy skills by making it easier for parents to find, among other topics, shape & letter books (Letter Knowledge), rhyming titles (Phonological Awareness), folktales (Narrative Skills), popular characters (Print Motivation). It might prompt conversations between parent and library staff and the children during readers’ advisory interactions (Talking).

PROGRAMS

Where Is the Green Sheep? Play to Learn Program, from Libraryland
This drop-in preschool program features a series of activity stations, all of which have a connection to early learning. Lisa showcases all five early literacy practices during this Play to Learn.

Certainly this is not an exhaustive list! What innovative programs, services, or materials do you have at your library that support early literacy learning?

Stay tuned for one more post about this activity!

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Early Literacy & Libraries Brainstorming Activity, Part I

Last spring I had the fun of visiting my friend Priscilla’s LIS class, “Early Childhood Materials & Services.” It’s a class we developed and taught together a couple of times for the Early Childhood Librarian Fellowship program in the University of Denver School of Library & Information Science. Last spring I had too much on my plate to teach, and Priscilla graciously & VERY capably took on the class by herself–but I snuck in a visit as a guest lecturer!

I tweeted this picture of the activity I prepared for the group, and promised to blog about it–and, oh, 12 months later I finally am.

ECMSPopsticks

We started by talking about connecting early childhood services and library mission statements, and Priscilla and I shared that when we first started teaching this course, youth services professionals were working hard to show library decision makers that early learning and early literacy were essential aspects of the public library’s mission.

Several years later, the conversation is less and less about convincing people about the value of supporting early learning. There’s more and more agreement that storytimes are vehicles for early literacy and can support parent education, which is great. Now the conversation is more about how ELSE can we support our children’s learning? How else can libraries help families build early literacy skills in their children?

So I gave the class a brainstorming activity, to see if we could come up with strategies for children’s services, separate from storytime, that would support & model early literacy learning.

This is what we did:

I had that set of colored popsticks for them from the picture.

    Red was an early literacy practice (reading, writing, singing, talking, playing)
    Yellow was an early literacy skill (print awareness, print motivation, narrative skills, phonological awareness, letter knowledge, vocabulary–plus I added background knowledge after I took this photo)
    Green was a service area (library spaces, programs, storytime, advisory, reference, services, content–websites, newsletters, social media, etc.)

(Yes, this was totally inspired by Guerrilla Storytime, thank you, Storytime Underground!)

Each pair of students took one popstick from each color. They could do a couple of different things:

    Think of some way that those three things already exist together in a library
    Think of a new program or service that would combine these elements

If they struggled, I told them to skip the yellow “skills” stick.

Disclaimer! This exercise was NOT to tell them they should cram their future children’s areas with every possibility we generated. It was NOT to give them a checklist of things to do around each and every ECRR early literacy practice. It was NOT to suggest there was a viable service idea hidden in every single combination of popsticks.

Instead, it was meant as a way for them to think broadly about the relationship between the programs, materials, and services they might encounter in their future children’s areas and the early literacy skills & practices they were learning in class. I wanted them to have practice seeing that early learning is ALREADY embedded in youth services in many different ways. That early literacy is everywhere, inside AND outside of storytime. I wanted them to prepare themselves to be intentional about building and creating services in their future libraries.

Why? All libraries have limited resources. If you are advocating for new programs and services for your department, you are usually going to need a better sell than, “Hey, this looks like a cute idea.”

You’re going to be in a much better place if you can build robust offerings that you can tie to the library’s mission and goals. If you’re trying to win a grant, you’re going to want to show the benefits. If you’re trying to choose between two new ideas for your department, you’re going to want to have a clear picture of which better meets your current objectives or rounds out your current offerings. If your director asks you to cut a program or service, you’re going to want some help deciding.

So that was part one of the exercise! Come back Tuesday for part 2!

Do you want to play? Leave a comment with what comes to your mind when you mix and match these concepts!

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Ninja Ninja Ninja

I am super excited to be serving as a Featured Ninja at Storytime Underground this month!

cropped-cropped-sto-und-header2

My co-ninjas are Emily and Ingrid and we’ve already answered a couple questions, so head over to Storytime Underground to add your great advice in the comments!

The advice and support that pours out on a daily basis from the SU community is incredibly inspiring and I’m really happy to be able to take a turn and give back a little! I’m also psyched to complete the “Featured Ninja” task at Storytime University because it means I’ve earned the Ninja badge! It’s been months since I could work on my University homework and I’m looking forward to getting a few more badges under my belt this spring and summer.

Thanks, SU!

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In Defense of Saying Yes

I’ve been writing about saying no lately, which is a discipline that has been kind of necessary for me to work on over the last couple of years. But before I move on to other topics I want to spend some time on the flip side, and talk briefly about the value in saying yes. I don’t think it would be fair to have this discussion without acknowledging that it’s not necessarily easy to say no, and that is true in part because many of the reasons to say yes are legitimate, valid, and compelling.

Pretty much always say yes to Cheetos

Pretty much always say yes to Cheetos

Why say yes?

Saying yes to a project or an opportunity is a basic way to build your career through developing new skills, experiences, or relationships. While you are gathering experience through your daily responsibilities on the job, you can be doubling up on your learning by working on a project outside of work too.

If someone is offering to pay you, then money most certainly can be a reason to say yes! Everyone will have a different point at which some money is enough money–figure out what yours is and it will be easier to know when to say yes or no.

Do you love to present workshops? Write blog posts? Review books? Whatever your favorite thing to do is, saying yes to extra projects gives you a chance to do more of what you find energizing and enjoyable. Or maybe a project gives you a chance to work with some great people. Saying yes to fun is a completely legit strategy.

By the same token, saying yes might mean not looking for a passion project, but instead taking a turn on the non-flashy committees that exist to help us do the essential work of our profession or our community.

Is your boss asking you to say yes and do something on behalf of your department or your library? Sometimes the reality is it is more politic to say yes than no. Or maybe your boss sees a nascent skill set in you that they’d like to help foster. Being open to saying yes in that case might send you in an exciting new direction!

One last true thing about saying yes and saying no:

One of the reasons that it’s easier lately for me to say no is because I’ve said so many yesses. I want to be really frank about that. As worn out as I let myself become, I still can’t feel a whole lot of regret about any of the projects I took on. I think they were pretty much all awesome opportunities and while perhaps they would have felt better spreading out over ten years instead of 5 or so, I can’t point to anything and say, “That’s the one thing I shouldn’t have done.” I’m grateful for all of it. So I am not feeling such an overwhelming urge to do all the things in part because I’ve already done many of them! Now that I have, I have a better sense of what projects suit me best and which are the most exciting to me, and perhaps even through which ones I can help make the most difference going forward.

That’s a pretty good result of saying yes.

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Inspired by Flannel Friday! This Little Train

Three years ago, I created a pattern for a set of train cars that I have used over and over ever since. Last year, I learned a new-to-me song in a Cen Campbell webinar that goes great with these pieces, too.

Now I’ve learned ANOTHER new song from Flannel Friday! Lucy at In the Children’s Room posted about adapting a song called “This Little Train.” The post is a couple years old, but thanks to the magic of the Flannel Friday Pinterest board pinners, I found it when I needed it!

I wanted to adapt it, in turn, to match my own train cars.

IMG_2087

So here’s what I came up with! It’s to the tune of “This Old Man.”

This little train, painted gray
Takes us places far away
With a choo, choo, clicky-clack, hear the whistle blow
This little train goes rolling home

This little train, painted black
Keeps us chugging down the track
With a choo, choo, clicky-clack, hear the whistle blow
This little train goes rolling home

This little train, painted white
Keeps things cold both day and night
With a choo, choo, clicky-clack, hear the whistle blow
This little train goes rolling home

This little train, painted blue
It has seats for me and you
With a choo, choo, clicky-clack, hear the whistle blow
This little train goes rolling home

This little train, painted red
Is where the engineer goes to bed
With a choo, choo, clicky-clack, hear the whistle blow
This little train goes rolling home

If you can write a verse for the green car, I am all ears.

The only thing I could come up with was,

    This little train, painted green
    Has the best graffiti you’ve ever seen

…which I thought left a little to be desired.

ANYWAY, I used this in a Family Storytime with a Things That Go theme, and I forgot how much fun it is to sing the tune for This Old Man, and I had a hoot. Thanks for the inspiration, Flannel Friday!

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Different Types of Saying No

As I have been forging along on my saying-no journey frankly I have received some absolutist advice and feedback: I should just be saying no flat-out, and if I wasn’t saying no quickly and completely I wasn’t REALLY saying no. (And again, in these posts I am primarily thinking about the extra-work-outside-of-work situations: professional committees, freelance training, webinar presenting, teaching, reviewing, blogging…not the situations that involve managing work levels on the job.)

OK, so how do I get myself out of this?

OK, so how do I get myself out of this?

Well, just like a robust anti-drug policy is a little more nuanced than Nancy Reagan would have us believe (shout out to my fellow lived-through-the-80s readers for whom that reference actually makes sense), I have found that saying no in real life is more complicated than just repeating, “Sorry, I can’t,” every time you are asked to do something.

Although sometimes it isn’t more complicated than that: Saying no sometimes really does look just like not saying yes. (“That’s a great opportunity, but I just can’t take it on right now.”)

Another way to say no is to quit a project or commitment that you have already undertaken. You can do this by not re-upping (“No, I won’t sign on to review grant proposals again this year, thanks, I’ll let someone else have an opportunity to see what it’s like.”) or by quitting before your initial commitments or term is up. (“I realize I said I could write a blog post a month until next August, but in the interim my responsibilities have changed and I won’t be able to submit past this April.”)

Or, maybe you can delegate the responsibility while still overseeing the larger project. This was a major skill for me to learn as a committee chair: I wanted to be pulling my own weight as a committee member, yet sometimes the general chair responsibilities needed to take priority. (“I’ve been chipping away at this report for the steering committee, but I’m falling way behind. I need to ask two of you to take it on from here.”)

If you’re not in a position to delegate, then plain old asking for help from colleagues or friends is an option, too. (“I said I would write this report for the steering committee, but I am so stuck. Do you have an hour to talk through the main points with me or read a very rough draft?” or “I said I would present this webinar but I’ve realized it’s too much work. Would you be able to partner with me on it?”) In this case your no is not so much “I can’t do it,” as it is “I can’t do it by myself.”

Sometimes your no isn’t so much a no as it is a “not now but later.” If someone has asked you to do something and you have a choice of deadline (maybe you need to take a turn writing minutes for a meeting or arranging a monthly speaker) don’t waffle and say “Oh, I can do it whenever.” Say, “I can’t do it next month, but put me down for September.” Or, if you’ve been approached for an opportunity you don’t have time for, you could say, “I can’t do it this year, but I would love it if you kept me in mind for next year!” Don’t say that unless you mean it, then put it on your calendar in case they do call back, you have that block free.

Another “later” type of no is rescheduling a current commitment. You’ve already said you could do it at a certain time, but now you are worried about fitting everything in. Take a deep breath and ask if you can reschedule. Sometimes it’s not possible, but sometimes everyone will be happier about having a better webinar/article/presentation at a different time than a not-so-great product at the original time.

What other ways are there for saying no?

See what else I’ve written about saying no here and here.

Further reading–what are your suggestions?

7 Simple Ways to Say No | Zen Habits
How to Say No To Anyone | The Muse

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Cookie Recipes!

If April Fool’s Day drives you up the wall, here is one post that is 100% no tricks!

I love to bake and for the last few conferences I’ve attended I have brought cookies with me to share with friends and those other nice, nice people who attend my sessions. From time to time I have been asked for recipes, so I thought it would be fun to pass them on!

More cookies than anything else

More cookies than anything else

ALSC 2014

Triple-Ginger Cookies from 101 Cookbooks

These cookies are so amazing I brought them to ALA Midwinter 2015 too. For these cookies, I am like one of those annoying food blog commenters who say, “I love these cookies! It’s a perfect recipe and I made 800 changes!” So just in case you make them and they don’t taste exactly like mine did, here’s a couple of notes: I only used half the listed amount of crystallized ginger because the first time I made this recipe that’s all I had in the house. They were still superb. I do want to try them once with the whole amount, though! I substituted cloves for the anise, again, because of what I had on hand, but I liked the result so much I did that again the next time too. I used white whole wheat flour, and regular cane sugar and plain old molasses instead of unsulphured. Oh, and I also used demerara sugar instead of turbinado, but those are pretty similar.

CALCON 2014

Orange Creamsicle Cookies from The Girl Who Ate Everything

If you have fond memories of Creamsicles you owe it to yourself to try these cookies! The flavors really do come across in great combination and I have trouble eating just a few. I make this recipe as is, except I always double it because it doesn’t make enough.

I brought another cookie but I can’t think of what it was! Anyone else remember?

MIDWINTER 2015

Bigger conference = more cookies.

Perfect Rice Krispie Treats from Cookies and Cups

I loved the tip to add extra mini marshmallows after you mix in the cereal; it really boosts the gooey factor. I also appreciated the reminder not to smoosh the gooey mixture into the pan too hard when you let it set, that way it stays softer and chewier. I did make 2 changes: I added a little vanilla (maybe 1/2t or 1t) because I think it rounds out the flavor, and just for fun I swapped out about a quarter of the plain Rice Krispies for Fruity Pebbles.

Coconut Cranberry Chews from Sunset Magazine in 2001.

This is a standby Christmas cookie in our house and it’s so decadent I couldn’t resist making more a month later for Midwinter. I make these as is, but I do take the time to roll each scoop of cookie dough into a tidy ball before putting them on the cookie sheet (rather than just dropping the dough from the spoon or scoop). When I looked for an online link to the recipe, I also found this story describing the original recipe, before Sunset adapted it for publication. I haven’t made this version yet, but I probably will at some point!

Raisin Puffs

My mom has had this recipe clipped for a long time. When I Googled it I found it online, and that it was originally from Midwest Living Magazine. This is a sweet, soft cookie and if you are someone with no raisin issues you will love it! I get about 6 dozen when I use my smallest cookie scoop. I’ve also had good luck switching in white whole wheat flour for the regular–you just might need to add a tablespoon of water if you do.

So what should I bring to Annual? What are your favorite cookies?

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How Do You Know When to Say No?

Earlier this week I talked about what I’ve learned about saying no over my two-year-ish project to reduce my professional responsibilities and my stress. Now, there are books and books and blogs and blogs about saying no, and so here’s my disclaimer that my posts about this topic are more about sharing what’s been on my mind and SO much less about giving advice, because I’m not a life coach or an expert and I’m still learning myself.

So what’s been on my mind about knowing when to say no? Mostly, that anyone who tells you it’s easy to know when to say no or how to set limits isn’t necessarily speaking an objective truth. It may be easy for some people (and it’s getting easier for me!) but if you struggle with this it doesn’t mean you’re not smart or aren’t thoughtful or should have a better grip on things. In my experience saying no is complicated, and iterative, and not always replicable, because circumstances are often unique.

Which means that there isn’t one answer for knowing when to say no. I’m going to briefly talk about what I’ve learned to do and pay attention to, but what I’d really like to know is how YOU know when to say no.

Yes I have a question for the Reference Desk?

Yes I have a question for the Reference Desk?

The more strategies we can name, the more tools we all have!

Yearly Calendar

One thing I started doing a year or two ago is so simple I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t been doing it all along. I have a 12-box grid in my daily planner and each box is one month of the year. I cross out December (because of the holidays) and June or July (whichever month my family is roadtripping that year) and write in any conferences, state or national, that I am attending. Then I let myself write in ONE “extracurricular” professional project in the months that are left over. Right now I am being pretty conservative, so ONE PROJECT is anything from as “small” as a journal article to as “large” as a freelance webinar. On your calendar you might decide you have room for two things every month, or for one large every other month and one small every month…it’s your matrix and your decision. The point is to visually fill up your year, because those deadlines that are 6-to-9 months away ALWAYS feel more doable from the other side of the calendar and it’s easy to think there is plenty of time to spread out all the work. If I can be reminded that the “in between” time is actually full, all the better.

Right now I actually have two yearly calendars in the works, for 2015 and for 2016. This in itself is helpful because as I’m looking for empty months and I’m getting farther and farther ahead that is serving as a reality check. The farther out I have to look for a free block of time, the more I’m likely to admit I should be saying no outright rather than trying to schedule it 18 months from now.

Weekly Calendar

A similar trick works on a smaller scale. I think I learned this from Time Management from the Inside Out but I’m overdue for a re-read and I can’t remember! Instead of blocking out one project a month, if you are asked to do something, try to visualize where in your week you will be able to spend the time on it. Are you going to work on your lunch hours? On Sunday afternoons? Thursday nights? Do you actually have a pocket of time free in your week-to-week schedule that you can devote to the new thing?

One of the realities that has affected how much I can take on is that as I’ve gotten older, I have less “usable” time in the evenings after dinner. I used to be able to work until midnight! Wow! Five hours of getting stuff done after work! Well, my spring chicken days are quite over and I can’t do that anymore. I just don’t have the energy or the focus I used to, and so literally have less time to work, even though those hours are still THERE and aren’t being taken up by anything more taxing than scrolling through Twitter or walking on the treadmill watching Rockford Files.

So be realistic about where the new project is going to go in your week, and if there aren’t any open time slots, then you’ll need to think about what are you going to give up in order to fit the new project in.

Gut Reactions

Frankly, by the time I started my saying no project I was so stressed that when I was asked to do something I didn’t have time for, I felt sick to my stomach. An actual queasy feeling, with the added bonus that I felt like I wanted to cry. Those were real signs and ones I finally couldn’t ignore. Your cues might be different! Maybe you have bad dreams or start to eat too many Twizzlers (ahem) or start drinking Coke again (hypothetically speaking). When my schedule got overloaded (as opposed to just full) I could *feel* it, and you might, too.

I also had to remember the difference between the queasy and dysfunctional “I can’t do this” feeling and the normal and completely functional “I haven’t done this before and I have some butterflies” feeling. Those ARE different, and the more stressed I became the harder it was for me name them correctly, and the more essential it was that I do so.

Also, another way I’ve learned to tell when I should say no is if I really want to say yes, but then realize that I really don’t want to go home and tell my husband I’ve said yes. NOT because he isn’t supportive of my career! He is my best cheerleader and has always encouraged me to pursue goals I wasn’t sure I could reach or thought I was ready to take on. However, I know he wants the best for the whole me, not just library me. And while I sometimes can (and do!) try to squash my own doubts and misgivings when offered fun opportunities, imagining what he would say about my time commitments and work/life balance turns out to be a great litmus test. It externalizes the decision just enough for me to see the situation more clearly and assess things more accurately. I never assume I know exactly what he’ll think, and I still bring things home to talk about, and sometimes I say yes to things he’s not sure I have time for, and other times I think I should say no and he urges me to say yes. So the imaginary conversation isn’t the only tool I use, but it’s become a pretty good indicator light on the dashboard!

So there are three ways I try to assess my time & overall workload before deciding to say yes or no. I’m very much aware these are all strictly time-based strategies. There are LOTS of other reasons for saying no, from aligning decisions to your priorities to lack of interest or skill set to not being able to afford, financially, to say yes. Maybe we’ll make a list of more good reasons to say no in the comments! I just couldn’t tackle them all at once, and for me, the time-based decisions were the hardest ones to make, so that’s what I wanted to talk about here. Also, I’m pretty much talking about managing outside-of-work professional commitments, when you are the one who gets to decide what to do or not to do, and not during-the-work-week responsibilities, when your boss and your department and other factors affect what you must take on or drop. That’s a related but very different situation, and probably fodder for another blog post. :)

So how do YOU know when to say no? When have you been right? When have you been wrong?

And let us know what your favorite reads are for help in saying no! Here are two library-world blog posts to get you started:

The Art of Saying No
from BossLadyWrites
How Do You Say No? from In the Library With the Lead Pipe

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