Saturday, March 8, 2014

So Much To Do, So Little Time

I'm pretty sure everyone has made or heard this lament several times in their life, if not every day. Most of us have more things we want to do than we have the time and/or resources for, both in our personal lives and at work, and this is certainly the case at The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.

Think of all the things we currently do and could yet do with this botanic garden. We want to answer all the e-mails we receive the same day we get them. I need to inventory our collections regularly and take notes on flowering and fruiting events, entering all this into our botanic garden database. Plant labels need to be made and maintained. I research new plants to add to our collections then need to make time to head up to Homestead to bring back the new specimens. We take photographs for our own records and also for social media - and then we need to manage all those social media accounts. We would love to acquire more plots of land to expand our collections. I would love to be able to offer ten different tours instead of two. I already have a 90-minute tour slot each day, but demand could certainly increase to requiring two per day. It would be great to put out a blog every week instead of once every two or three. We're working on a botanic art gallery and it would be very neat to feature interactive exhibits along with those works of art. It would be of great benefit to the community if we could bring our educational environmental programs for students to all the schools here in the Keys, not just elementary and middle school students in the Upper Keys. We would love it if our Grounds Director could spend all her time focused only on caring for the collections, but as it is, about half her time is needed for other work on the property. KKBG.ORG has come into its own as a virtual ethnobotanic garden, but I would love to to make it an even more comprehensive ethnobotanical resource. It would be valuable for us to attend more community events, devote more time to fundraising, and write at least a few grant proposals each month. It sure would be neat to host seminars and workshops on ethnobotany here with experts from around the U.S. and the world, as well as a range of other special events. It would be nice to eat lunch each day as well. And on and on and on...

Just a few of the things we do.

Now think of how much an organization with one full time staff member and three part time staff members could handle well without becoming overwhelmed. At least one part-time person is needed for daily horticultural maintenance and another part-time person is required for a basic level of administration, and all of a sudden we're already down to one full time and one part time person! Needless to say, we can't do all we would like to do. In reality, though, no organization does, even if they have 100 times the staff and resources. There will always be something more that could be done, and more is never enough.

Deciding what to focus our time on given our limitations and figuring out how to go about accomplishing those things has been a challenge for me in my role as Associate Director here at the Gardens, but one I quite enjoy because I feel it's a skill that is extremely important to develop for use in all aspects of life. So how exactly does one go about making these choices about what to do given constraints on time and resources? When it comes to the Gardens, Joe and I get together a couple times a year to comprehensively evaluate what we are doing and what we might want to do. Our mission and vision statements are crucial to this process because they allow us an objective framework from which to evaluate whether or not programs are relevant to what we want to achieve as a Garden and which relevant programs are most important. Choices on my own then need to be made regarding how to go about accomplishing these goals. With practice and an internalization of the priorities of the organization as well as consideration for deadlines, I begin to make these choices almost unconsciously. Beyond that, personal preference is important, as some people prefer to start the day with the most challenging tasks so they can coast downhill after that, whereas others prefer to start off with easier-to-accomplish tasks to get into a groove before going after the more time-consuming and challenging tasks.

To make things a little more complicated, each week is usually full of unanticipated interruptions and tasks. I've found that one of the most valuable skills to develop is a flexibility from hour-to-hour and day-to-day that allows me to maintain a sort of disjointed continuity: taking on unanticipated tasks as they arise while at the same time staying focused on the several projects of central importance that need to get done, so that when I'm able to get back to the last major project I was working on, I can pick up easily where I left off. I imagine the ideal of this skill metaphorically as a constant juggling act of tennis balls (representing major mission-oriented goals to accomplish) that incorporates other tennis balls (representing smaller unanticipated tasks) into the juggling routine whenever they come up. The tennis balls are then dropped out as they are "accomplished," all while maintaining flawless juggling of the others. When you get it right, this is basically what it feels like:

Certainly, people have juggled several more balls at one time than that, but not in such an incredibly artistic and powerful way. So, even if we can afford to have only a few tennis balls in the air at a time as a botanic garden given the staff and resources we have, we can still create an unforgettable experience for our visitors and local community. It's not how much you have, but what you do with what you've got.

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

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