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Where Has The Time Gone?: Scheduling

Time Management and Prioritization in Library Jobs

Research & Instruction

( A Year In the Life - Susan)



Faculty at my door

Students at my door

Requests for information literacy sessions

Calls from the RIS desk for help with a science research question

Last-minute desk shifts to cover

Emails asking for immediate help

Problems with databases



ACRL subject review

Revamp LibGuides before teaching a repeat class

Revamp lesson plans for repeat classes

Create lesson plans for new classes

Create/revamp handouts for a class

Create new LibGuides for a new class

Enhancement grant work

Choice book reviews

Social media posts

Search Committees – Business Librarian and Social Sciences Librarian

Library Committees

Campus committees

Book chapter proposal / Acceptance / Draft / Final version

Library events – Finals Fairy / Banned Books Week / A Novel Idea / Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon




Departmental goals

Personal goals

Journal articles to co-author

SWOT analysis for the RIS Department

RIS strategic plan revamp

Collection Development policies re-write

Weeding for 6 departments

Buying books for 6 liaison departments

Scanning for conference proposals

Library events – Finals Fairy / Banned Books Week / A Novel Idea / Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon



Time Management Techniques Used

In the past, I have tried multiple apps to manage my "to-do" lists, but did so with little success.  Ultimately I found going exceedingly low-tech was the way for me to go, even more so when things are truly at their peak of insane busyness.  


At first I tried to simply make weekly lists of all my tasks - both personal and professional - and tried to pick and choose which day to do each thing. When this proved too messy and not as functional as I had hoped, I changed my technique to an even simpler one - a list of things to do at work titled "Here" and one that related to my personal life titled "There", and simply wrote a new list every day, transferring un-finished items from the previous day as needed.   


Weekly Schedule Example:



Daily List Examples:

Collection Management

( A Year In the Life - Jennifer)



Troubleshooting discovery layer issues

Fixing catalog errors

Responding to broken link reports







Special cataloging requests

OCLC support tickets

Search committees - Exhibits Curator and University Archivst‚Äč

Library Events Committee

Library task groups

Campus committees

Consortial task group (chair)

Faculty Senate (secretary and parliamentarian)

Promotions review

Writing and submitting articles

Preparing presentations

Emergency plan updates

Collections Management SWOT analysis





Cataloging donations

Improving metadata in our institutional repository

Creating collection development workshops and plans

Finishing cleanup of our microform government documents records

Improving our discovery layer - knowledge base update and maintenance, enhancement requests, etc.

Learning Robert's Rules

Scanning for opportunities to present and publish

OCLC update webinars

Ongoing professional development - conferences, webinars, readings, etc.

Institutional repository outreach

Catalog cleanup projects

User studies on our discovery layer settings

Time Management Techniques Used

I have used and am using Outlook's calendar and to-do functionality, in concert with a paper list of ongoing responsibilities and open projects, to help manage my time. Initially, I used Outlook only to mark down appointments and tasks with a deadline. As my responsibilities grew, though, I needed something a little more complex to ensure that I didn't lose anything in the shuffle.

I tried designating days to work on my primary responsibilities, one day per responsibility. However, I found that I struggled to maintain focus on certain types of rote tasks for longer than a few hours, so I started designating two tasks per day (one rote and one more mentally engaging). But this method was making it difficult to fit in tasks that did not fall into my primary responsibilities, as my general categories did not include room for such "irregular" (but common!) work. I had also reached a point where I had more responsibilities than could easily be divided into 10 equal chunks.

I therefore pivoted to pre-planning my weeks, designating blocks of time for each task I needed to get done. (I also tracking how I actually spent my time.) This worked well enough for a while, but it lacked flexibility, making it mentally difficult to fit in urgent work and causing problems if something took longer than I'd estimated it would. Mounting frustration with that lack of flexibility as well as an increasing disconnect between how I'd schedule my time and how I'd actually spend that time led me to scrap "time block" methods entirely and switch to a priority- and task-based system.

In the priority tasks system, I plot out everything as tasks (for instance, "catalog 25 books") and then arrange the tasks on my week in priority order. I do still try to estimate the amount of time each task will take and arrange the tasks by day, in order to ensure that my expectations of what I will get done are realistic. So far, this systems seems to be working well. It lets me keep track of and make sure I'm making progress on my many different responsibilities, but I can also easily add new, urgent tasks and freely change tasks from one day to another. It also requires less planning time than the old system did, which was an unexpected bonus.


Daily Assignments Example:

Two days of an Outlook Calendar showing all-day "meetings" with notes on what should be worked on that day


Pre-planned Time Blocks Example (blue is planned, aqua is actual):

Two days on an Outlook Calendar, showing blue and aqua "appointments" indicating what tasks should be or were done at a given time


Priority Tasks Example:

Two days of an Outlook Calendar showing daily to dos