New Years, Resolutions, and Leadership

Over the past few years I’ve stopped making New Year’s Resolutions in favor of a word or two. I’ve found this very helpful for a number of reasons: You never feel like you’ve failed the resolution if you miss a day, instead you just remember to think about it again the next day. You have to continue to think creatively about how to incorporate the word, rather than just following a checklist you set up 100 or so days ago. By the end of the year you haven’t made a habit of something new, or checked a box, but rather it’s become a part of how you think about the world.

Last year I worked on mindfulness. That manifested in being more present with family and friends, using my phone less, an awareness of when it’s a good time to take on new opportunities and when to say no, and less mindless eating (leading to more healthy eating), among other things. Pretty good for a one word resolution!

This year my theme will be kindness. (Though I also added a bonus this year: more long form reading. I lose so much time to Facebook, Twitter, Instapaper, and Medium. I’d like to redirect some of that time to books. My to read list is huge!)

This approach resonates with a book that I spent a bit of time talking with my boss about last year: Essentialism. The book argues that you can’t be great at all things, so pick a few really important things and focus on those. You’ll note that both Brian and I decided to do that this year in our writing–without even having a conversation about it.

I’ve struggled with public writing for the past two years. Since arriving at Virginia Tech, my time has been spent entirely in administrative, management, and leadership work. Most of the time it’s great fun, interesting, and challenging. Though one of my colleagues and I often talk about the similarities between management and instruction, I am no longer teaching on a day-to-day basis, and my work looks very different than it did at Wake Forest.

I have resisted writing much because I’m very aware of audience. When I was writing about teaching, the chances of one of my students finding it was slim, and if they did, they would only learn that there was a method to my teaching approach. When a manager writes about their work, many employees will read it to learn more about their manager and what it means for their job (I sure would!), and they’ll analyze the writing for what it might say about their own work. I’ve avoided writing about things that are happening as well as things I’m learning because I don’t want to unduly stress people out about work, or what’s happening, or what might happen. I don’t want people to read too much into what I’m writing as I explore ideas that might not even amount to anything.

So, I’ve been thinking about it and trying to figure out my approach to this space going forward. When I look at my formal writing and presenting, it’s already moved into the realm of management and leadership. Those pieces tend to be very polished and I’ve thought about all the potential audiences before releasing them into the world. Blogs, by their nature, are a bit less polished. However, as I work through ideas in leadership and management I find more and more I want to share here. So, you’ll start to see some of that show up. I’ll still do the occasional piece on time management, higher ed, teaching, or technology, but I anticipate there will be more on the leadership side of my work. (It’s what I spend all day doing, after all!) But you can be sure that there will be quite a bit of intentionality about it, and a clear awareness of audience.

I’ll be putting more time towards formal writing this year as well. And, as you probably know, the amount of writing that takes place in administrative email could populate several (long) blog posts a day! So I’m not promising regular posts… just a clearer sense of the space and a framework to make it easier for me to decide what to share.

To 2015, more reading, and more writing!

My name is Lauren Pressley. This is where I think out loud, document what I'm doing, and share the things that I like. I'm the Director for Learning Environments at Virginia Tech University Libraries and author of a few books. This blog focuses on libraries, education, information, & the internet. When not at work or blogging, I spend most of my time with John and our son, Leif.