Rethinking Projects

How many projects are you working on right now?

When I ask this question in my seminars, most people answer in the range of 1-10.  The reason for this answer is that they believe projects are big and involved endeavors which take weeks or months to complete.   But I ask in this case are they thinking too big?

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According to GTD, a project is anything that requires more than one action to complete.  By this definition, the number of projects we are working on balloons to fifty or more!  Of course, many of these projects are quickly dispatched in less than a day or even an hour.  The catch is that when we fail to recognize these small items as projects, they tend to pile up around us.  Each little incomplete project takes up mental space, leading to an ongoing background sense of anxiety.

The solution according to GTD is the complete project list.  It asks you to assess your total life work at the moment by listing every project in one place.  Remember, a project is something that can be completed, as opposed to an area of responsibility which is ongoing.  For example, an area of responsibility is personal health, and a project to support it could be to sign up for exercise classes.

This project list helps in at least three significant ways:

1/ The project list serves as a reminder of incomplete items.  This can alleviate worry about losing track of projects that may come back to haunt you later.

2/ A project list forces people to get specific about the next physical actions needed to move the item from an open loop to a completed project. It accelerates completion of work.

3/ By having a full inventory of current workload, it becomes easier to recognize limitations and enables people to safely reject new projects in order to keep their professional dignity and sanity intact.

As David Allen, creator of GTD says, “You can only feel good about what you are not doing when you know what you are not doing.”   Helpful project tips are listed on the Getting Things Done web site.

So draft a project list and keep it updated.  You may be surprised at how much you are really doing!

Fine Free @ PBCLS

pbclslogoDoes anyone like overdue fines?  Library members hate paying them, the staff dislike collecting them, and do they even work to get people to return items on time?

That is why I’m happy to announce that the Palm Beach County Library System has become fine free.  By doing so we have joined the ranks of public libraries across the country that realized library fines are an antiquated notion.  Starting on October 1, the Library System moved to the fine free model.  In a recent Palm Beach Post article, reporter Hannah Morse quoted from my presentation to the Board of County Commissioners the reasons why this change was required.

“Across the nation, public libraries now view fines as an impediment to service,” said Douglas Crane, director of the county library system. “Late fines actually stand in opposition to the library’s core values of equitable service, supporting early literacy and free access to information.”

Crane added that fines “act as a barrier and create inequitable service, disproportionately impacting children and community members with limited financial means.”

Learn all about the change on the library’s web site. And remember, you still need to bring your items back.  We just won’t nickel and dime you about it if you are a few days late.

10 Minute Tidy Up

If you studied science in high school, you may be familiar with the “Second Law of Thermodynamics”.  It states in a nutshell that “entropy increases.”  In layman’s terms it means that all systems move towards a state of disorder.  You don’t have to be a scientist to see how this plays out in life.  Just take a moment to look around and see how quickly personal and work spaces becomes cluttered.  It is amazing how quickly our spaces become disorganized, and equally demoralizing to consider the hours it will take to restore them.

claire-tompkinsIt need not come to this state.  To keep our spaces clean and orderly on an ongoing basis, a simple approach works best.  One method is the 10 minute tidy up, suggested by Claire Tompkins, aka the Clutter Coach, in her book 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized.  She describes the technique on page 11:

“Just as it is better to wipe up a spill right away, the ten-minute tidy up will keep your space organized with much less effort than spending half of a Saturday on it.  If you do this daily, ten minutes should be plenty.”

She suggests tidying up at transition times, such as before leaving the house or immediately after dinner.  If you are interested in trying it out, she suggests making a list of three spots to tidy today before bed.

Small actions can reverse the weight of entropy in your home.  Why not try a 10 minute tidy today!

When to Use Your First Brain

Memory is fleeting or so we are told.  Everyone has had the experience of forgetting something important.  Both David Allen and Tiago Forte have written about the importance of not relying on your brain to remember information, but instead to put the data into a trusted system.  This process is at the core of most productivity advice.

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However, are their times when we should rely on our biological memory over a database or electronic “second brain”?  In a guest post on Tiago Forte’s Praxis blog, Tasshin Fogleman, a Buddhist monk, argues the value of memorization has great merit in this electronic age.  He writes:

Building A Second Brain (BASB) is an effective default for personal knowledge management (PKM) in the digital era. But outsourcing our creative thinking to a second brain has its pitfalls.

A robust memory can be a useful supplement to digital PKM systems. Contrary to Tiago’s assumptions, memory is not a useless, outmoded relic of our biological bodies. It is an astonishing skill, and we would be unwise to overlook it.”

Fogleman proceeds to share several methods to improve our memory, including Spaced Repetition, Mind Palaces, the Mindful Review, and more.  Read all about them in his guest post.

Join the Petition Against McMillan

Have you ever heard of a business flat out refusing to sell their product to a reliable and well funded customer?  Sounds like a crazy way to do business.  However, that is the case right now between some publishers and libraries. Hachette and HarperCollins are two publishers who have changed their lending models to make it more expensive and restrictive for libraries to purchase eBooks and eAudiobooks.

Now, one publisher has decided to implement a new model designed to severely limit public libraries from providing eBooks to their residents.  Beginning November 1, 2019, Macmillan Publishers will allow libraries to purchase only one copy of each new eBook title for the first eight weeks after a book’s release.  Macmillan claims that libraries are eating into their profits, yet libraries already pay on average $25 per title, and often have to buy it again after a set number of downloads or years.  As the American Library Association states:

ala-logo“This embargo would limit libraries’ ability to provide access to information for all.  It particularly harms library patrons with disabilities or learning issues. One of the great things about eBooks is that they can become large-print books with only a few clicks, and most eBook readers offer fonts and line spacing that make reading easier for people who have dyslexia or other visual challenges. Because portable devices are light and easy to hold, eBooks are easier to use for some people who have physical disabilities.

Here’s the truth: Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for readers like you.”

Help ensure that public libraries have access to eBooks for all readers.  Sign the ALA petition to let publishers know that access to eBooks is a right for all!

Unique Libraries Around the World

What do train tracks, philharmonic orchestras, and giant chess sets have in common?  They are all features found in new, groundbreaking libraries from across the world.

The Straits Times, a periodical from Singapore, recently released an article on wonderful and creative new library designs.  It includes examples from cities as diverse as Helsinki, Calgary, Doha, and Austin.  All of these new buildings challenge the traditional ideas of what makes a library a library.

“Helsinki Central Library in Finland: Only one-third of the 185,000 sq ft space is allocated to books – the rest is community space for meetings and activities. An urban workshop on the second floor, for example, has sewing machines, scanners and printers as well as laser cutters and soldering stations, with spaces allocated to sewing, making badges and even playing the drums.

Calgary New Central Library in Canada: It has train tracks running through it, as the site was designed to accommodate an active Light Rail Transit Line that already existed. The lobby is an arched bridge that lets locomotives go under it and in “living rooms”, patrons can sit on swirly chairs and watch them zoom by all day.”

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Calgary Public Library

View the rest of the article and learn more about these innovate library designs on The Straits Times web site.

Forte Labs & Public Libraries

This year, ForteLabs stars Tiago and Lauren came to Florida to work directly with Palm Beach County Library staff to help them build their own second brains.  Working in person and remotely, library staff got to explore the latest techniques in the science and art of digital note taking.

Tiago Forte just released an insightful summary of the experience working with us on his Praxis blog.  His post neatly captured the character of modern day librarianship and the opportunities the profession has to be a leader in spreading productivity practices.  He also gained a deeper appreciation of the mission of public libraries.

“Far from being a dusty, stale institution stuck in the past, what we saw on our tour was a vibrant, dynamic, quickly evolving organization full of people who care deeply about accessibility for everyone. Lauren and I were blown away by the breadth of the library system’s programs and services, and all of them offered for free to anyone. We came away with the sense that the library was an absolutely vital part of the community, especially for those with the fewest resources.”

Read the blog post on the Palm Beach County Building a Second Brain project here.  As an added bonus, you can read Tiago’s second posting on the role of public libraries as social infrastructure here.  Thank you Tiago and Lauren!

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