Where to Keep Ideas?

DA-SmallDavid Allen is fond of saying that “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”  As a knowledge worker, your ability to generate and implement ideas is crucial to your success.  The challenge is that we can never know for certain what will turn out to be a good idea and what will end up as a discarded thought.  However, it is guaranteed that a forgotten idea will never be implemented.  Therefore, it is important to have a method to capture ideas as they appear.

In a recent blog post, David Allen addresses this topic.

“How many thoughts and ideas do you have daily which represent useful things to do or potentially enhance or improve projects, situations, and life in general? How many have you had and forgotten, and forgotten that you’ve forgotten? …

“Most people have (or could have) many more of these kinds of thoughts than they realize, during the course of any 24-hour period. Most people don’t get value from many of them, because they lack both the habit and the tools to collect those thoughts when they occur. If they aren’t captured, they are useless, and even worse can add to the gnawing sense of anxiety most people feel about things “out there” they know they’ve told themselves they should or would like to do, but don’t remember consciously what they are.”

Read the rest of this post at www.gettingthingsdone.com.


Overcoming the Email Blues

cleandeskIn January 2018, I had a short article published in the American Library Association LearnRT Newsletter.  The article was called, Overcoming the Email Blues. While subscribers to the Newsletter received the article, it has yet to be archived on the ALA web site.  Therefore as a public service , I have added the article to my blog for your reading pleasure.

Many thanks to the editors of the newsletter for publishing the article.  The ALA Learning Roundtable has the following mission:

“The Mission of the Learning Round Table….

….promotes quality continuing education and staff development for all library personnel. We help you NETWORK with other staff development and continuing education providers for the exchange of ideas, concerns and solutions.

….serves as your SOURCE for staff development continuing education assistance, publications, materials, training and activities.

….is your ADVOCATE for quality library staff development and continuing education at both the local and national levels.”


The Efficient Librarian @ PLA 2018

pla2018Are you traveling to Philadelphia this month for the Public Library Association Conference?  If so, why not schedule time to learn how to get your email under control.  I am honored to have been selected twice to speak at the conference in two different events.

Thurs. March 22, 2:40-3:00 pm
How To Get Your E-mail Inbox Down to Zero
PLA Career Center Crash Courses Series
Pennsylvania Convention Center, 203 AB

Thurs. March 22, 5:15 pm
Five Minutes to Inbox Zero – Overcoming the E-mail Avalanche
Spark Talks
Pennsylvania Convention Center, 201 ABC

I invite you to take time out of your busy conference schedule to attend.  They are fun events and free to all registered conference attendees.

Hope to see you in Philly!

Clean Edges – Efficient Librarian

One of the hallmarks of an elite knowledge worker is that they are able to keep clean edges around their work.  This means that as they shift from one project or task to another, clear markers are left behind so that the work can be resumed quickly at the next opportunity.  Below is a small excerpt from my recent article in Public Libraries magazine  where I discuss this topic:

PL-NOV-DEC-2017-cover-artRRRAn Efficient Librarian creates clean edges to her work. It all starts with an organized desk and a clearly defined physical inbox to identify new input. One habit-changing practice is to empty the inbox regularly and use it only to place new items that have yet to be processed. An Efficient Librarian pays attention to how time is spent and looks for ways to declutter surroundings and simplify systems. For me, mastering workflow and creating systems that were tight, clean, and quick was a key to my transition. I believe that the application of these principles saves me weeks of time every year to focus on creative and exciting work that takes me along new innovative paths. This unleashing of energy is needed to revitalize our profession in the face of changing times.

“For example, a small change that made a huge difference for me was turning off new email alerts, such as notification vibrations, pop-up windows, and sounds. According to a study by behavioral economist Dan Ariely, only eleven percent of email requires immediate attention.6 New message notification alerts mostly serve to distract people from their primary task just to chase down content that is most likely destined for the trash. I turned off all my new message alerts a few years ago and instantly noticed a change in my depth and length of focus.”

Read the complete article at Public Libraries magazine online.

The Endowment Effect

yellowcupThe pursuit of efficiency often requires a cleanup of our physical spaces.  While clearing out clutter should be easy to do, in practice it is hard to throw away objects we own.  For example, maybe you got a mug at a conference six years ago.  The conference was unmemorable and the mug is an awful yellow color.  As you are considering parting with it, a colleague asks if they can have it.  You quickly decline and put it back on the shelf.   This is a direct experience of the Endowment Effect.

The Endowment Effect is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them.   In studies, people want more money to sell an an item they own than they would ever be willing to pay for it new.  Plus, there is often a sentimental value attached to the item, which makes it even harder to part with.

If the Endowment Effect is an obstacle when clearing out clutter, it might be useful to adopt a strategy similar to the one used to avoid the Sunk Cost Effect.  Look at the item as if it were on a store shelf and ask yourself if you would buy it today.  If not, get rid of it.  Another approach is the KonMari Method.  Hold the object in your hand and ask yourself it is sparks joy within you.  If not, discard it.

In order to experience the strategic value of clear space, it is necessary to discard unused items from your world.   Consider these strategies for your next office cleaning session and see the results.

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.

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.