On the Messiness of Real Work

I was updating my about me page on my professional web site this morning (an activity I engage in far too rarely), when it suddenly struck me how untidy my professional self is. I don’t mean that I have a messy desk (though at the moment there are two piles of papers and journals waiting to be sorted and acted upon). I don’t even mean that I don’t have any focus in my professional activities. What I mean is that many of the groups of people I work with and many of the projects we work on are never named and defined. Half the time I don’t know if I’m on a “committee,” a “working group,” a “task force,” or just a project, duty, or standing meeting. I don’t know what my new job helping to coordinate the activities at the Research/IT desk is called. Basically, I do a lot of things with a lot of people, and we get things done, but we rarely stop to define exactly where we fit into the structure and operations of the library or the campus.

And aside from the somewhat arbitrary decisions I make when trying to tell other people what I do, I’ve decided that this state of affairs is just fine with me. I’d much rather spend the time meeting and doing rather than waiting for formal charges to committees or writing project reports. I enjoy working at a place where people say, “Sure, let’s work on that. How’s next Tuesday for everyone?” and then proceed to meet regularly for a year or so to get whatever-it-is done. I just hadn’t realized until today how few formal names I had for the groups I’m on.