Overcoming Procrastination

Do you want to know how to overcome procrastination?  I’ll tell you in the next blog post.

Just kidding!  When I present the Efficient Librarian workshop, I’m often asked the question, “How do I overcome procrastination?”  While it seems challenging the solution is easier than you may think.  In a recent blog post on the Getting Things Done web site, GTD expert Meg Edwards wrote about her own experience with procrastination and the simple way she overcomes it:

megedwardsI realized that the two things I did that caused me to procrastinate were:
1) I had a negative definition of the outcome
2) I focused on the complexity involved … which overwhelmed me so I did nothing.

What I did that got it moving was:
1) I changed the negative definition of the outcome to a positive definition that motivated me
2) I clarified and defined the next action which simplified what I needed to do so I could relax about the complexity around it.

Read the full blog post on the Getting Things Done web site.

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Beware of Sunk Costs

Imagine you paid twenty dollars for a ticket to a local amateur play.  The day of the show, a friend surprises you with a free ticket to an exclusive concert featuring your favorite musician.  Do you choose to go to the play or the concert?  When behavioral economists run this type of experiment, they find most people will stick to the less attractive option (the play) because they paid for the ticket.  This is an example of the sunk cost fallacy in action.

Our minds are easily trapped by sunk costs.  According to Investopedia, a sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and thus cannot be recovered.  While this concept is often discussed around investments of money, sunk costs also include time and resources.  Think of how often an organization will add patches to clunky system instead of ditching it to build a new one.  People will stubbornly remain committed to a project that is going nowhere because of all the work put into it, even if results remain elusive.

dollarsandsenseRemember, a sunk cost is not recoverable, which gives rise to the famous expression, “Chasing good money after bad.”  The trick is to evaluate the current status of a project, investment, or commitment in light of where it stands now and ignore past contributions.  This way, it is possible to stay nimble and take advantage of better opportunities when they arise.

More information on sunk costs, especially around money, can be found in the book, Dollars and Sense: How we Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter, by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kresisler.

The Order of Organization

So you finally decided to start organizing your home or office.  At first it can be a tall task, especially if the space is full of clutter.  You may ask yourself, “Where do I start?”  It can be tempting to identify a corner of the room or a particular desk or table as a starting point.  But, could there be an ideal way to approach the task?

mariekondoIn “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” author Marie Kondo advises that all organizing proceed by category.  Her system guides people to work from things with the least sentimental value to the most by specific types of items.  She explains:

“Start with clothes, then move on to books, papers, komono (miscellany), and finally things with sentimental value.  If you reduce what you own in this order, your work will proceed with surprising ease.  By starting with the easy things first and leaving the hardest for last, you can gradually hone your decision-making skills, so that by the end, it seems simple.” (pg. 65)

See more at her web site Konmari.com and check out the book from your library.

Don’t Forget to Set a Reminder

Let’s face it – your mind is lousy at remembering things.   Some days it seems that we can only remember one thing at a time.  Try to juggle two items in your head and both fall out!  Thankfully, technology has created a wide range of tools to offload the responsibility of remembering things.

Memory Message Embassy List Note Mobile HandAt the low tech end  is the humble sticky note.  Once something crosses your mind, immediately write it down on the note.  This has to be done quickly, as the next shiny object that passes in front of your eyes can cause this thought to be forgotten.  The catch with this system is in the management of the physical notes.  Lose the sticky note and the thought it captured is gone.  For this system to work, the note must go straight into your inbox at the first opportunity for later processing.

At the other end of the scale are the apps on your smart phone.  I regularly use the iPhone’s reminder app to capture thoughts and commitments in real time.  A wonderful feature of the reminder app is the ability to set an alarm for a time or place in order to resurface the note.  For example, when I need to remember to bring in a document from home for work, I’ll place a reminder in the app and set an alarm to trigger that evening.  Without fail I’ll notice the pop-up reminder, prompting me to place the document in my bag to bring in to work the following day.

So do yourself a favor and stop trying to remember things.  Set up a simple reminder system and let the technology work for you.

(image from Maxpixel)

Efficient Librarianship: A New Path for the Profession

PL-NOV-DEC-2017-cover-artRRRI am proud to announce that my second article for Public Libraries magazine was published in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue. Efficient Librarianship: A New Path for the Profession is an article that explores and expands on the ideas discussed in this blog.  Below is a key except from the article:

“An Efficient Librarian is an elite knowledge worker navigating the complexity of the post Internet information world.  She combines the skill sets of a librarian with the best productivity and efficiency practices to become a powerful consultant and decision maker.  She masters the ability to traverse the streams of information flowing throughout our increasingly digital world and then in turn helps others learn these skills.  To start on the path, an Efficient Librarian recognizes and masters three types of engagement:

  1. Defining and organizing personal workflow systems
  2. Developing personal knowledge management skills
  3. Invoking the power of “next action” thinking

By mastering each type, an Efficient Librarian reduces unnecessary stress, brings focus to her work, curates her own knowledge stores, and drives sustained momentum for positive change.”

I expect the full article to be available online at the Public Libraries magazine web site later this month.  In the meantime, locate a paper copy, perhaps at your local library, to read the rest of the article.  Then please let me know your thoughts on the topic by submitting a comment through the blog.

The Big Secret about Goal Setting

DA-SmallWhat is the value in setting a goal for yourself or your organization?  Many cynics discount goals as artificial creations that don’t translate into actual results.  They argue that we are going to do the work anyway, so why set up a fake expectation?

In a recent blog post David Allen discussed what he believes to be the most useful perspective on goals and why they matter.

“There is always the dilemma of trying to set targets low enough to be realistic, but high enough to be galvanizing, exciting, and challenging.

This is a topic for endless business books and motivation pundits. I just want to highlight one perspective I’ve found very useful over the years: The value of goals is not in the future they describe, but the change in perception of reality they foster, in the present.

What we focus on changes what we notice. Our brain filters information, seeing one thing in a situation instead of something else, based on what we identify with, what we have our attention on.”

Read the full post at the Getting Things Done blog.

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution

new year resolutionWelcome to 2018!  Let me ask you a question.  Did you make a New Year’s Resolution before the ball dropped in Times Square?  According to a Forbes article from a few years ago, more than 40% of Americans make a resolution, but only 8% achieve it.  The article provides four timeless tips for succeeding with a new resolution:

  • Keep It Simple – Make it short and easy (i.e. lose 10 pounds by May)
  • Make It Tangible – Set clear actions (i.e. attend 2 classes at the gym per week)
  • Make It Obvious – Chart your progress (i.e. count calories and minutes worked out)
  • Keep Believing You Can Do It – Don’t Give In!

When you think about it, most resolutions are about making a new habit or changing an existing habit.  Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, provides a free resource on his web site with helpful hints on keeping a New Year’s Resolution.  You can find it here.

I wish you a productive and efficient 2018!