Is Willpower Overrated?

How much self-control do you have?  On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) where do you rank yourself?  Many people believe that self-control is determined by our willpower.  It is also believed that willpower is a fixed trait and something that determines destiny.  But does willpower control how successful that diet will be, or how focused you are on that project, or whether you can complete that personal productivity upgrade?

woman working girl sitting

In a recent article on Vox, the primacy of willpower was challenged by author Brian Resnick.

“But this idea, that people have self-control because they’re good at willpower, is looking more and more like a myth. It turns out that self-control, and all the benefits from it, may not be related to inhibiting impulses at all. And once we cast aside the idea of willpower, we can better understand what actually works to accomplish goals, and hit those New Year’s resolutions.”

Read the rest of the article on Vox.

Better Brainstorming

Do you dread brainstorming sessions?  The idea behind them is very simple, yet often unfulfilling.  The intention is to bring the team together to come up with as many ideas as possible to solve a problem.  Unfortunately, there are inherent flaws in the brainstorming process that can short circuit the process.  So is there a way to do better brainstorming?

people sitting beside brown wooden desk near flat screen tv

A recent article at the web site ScienceNordic provides some possible ways to brainstorm better.  The author, Lukasz Andrzej Derdowski writes that the following approaches have proven to be successful:

“Companies that implement a brainstorming method instruct their employees to abstain from criticism during the exercise so as to avoid ‘evaluation apprehension’. Yet others prefer to conduct electronic brainstorming sessions where participants share ideas on computer platforms without having to wait for their turn, and so alleviate the ‘production blocking issue.’”

Read the rest of the article on the ScienceNordic web site.

The Strategic Value of Clear Space

DA-SmallAt the end of an Efficient Librarian training seminar or webinar, I like to close with a phrase from David Allen that has stuck with me for a long time.  To my mind this phrase encapsulates the power inherent in the GTD mindset.  The phrase is “The Strategic Value of Clear Space.”

In a recent blog post on the Getting Things Done web site, David Allen expands on “The Strategic Value of Clear Space” at length.  Here is a key takeaway:

“To tackle something most productively you must begin in clear space. Physically you need all your tools in order and an open space for spreading your raw elements and assembling structures. Psychically you need an empty head, clear of distractions and unfinished business holding your attention hostage. From this starting point you will have your best chances for creative thinking, optimal ability to deal with surprise, maximum flexibility to come up with workarounds and innovative solutions. You’ll be able to take advantage of serendipitous, potentially valuable ideas.”

Read the rest at the Getting Things Done web site.

Power of Gratitude

What are you thankful for?

affection appreciation decoration design

As we move into the American Thanksgiving holiday week, it is a natural time to reflect on life.  No matter what is happening to you right now, there is something to be thankful for.  In fact, scientific studies have shown that taking time to be grateful has a positive impact on your well being.  In a 2011 letter on the Harvard Medical School web site, the author shares that:

“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

The letter goes on to list some simple ways to bring gratitude into daily life, including:

  • Write a thank-you note
  • Thank someone mentally
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Count your blessings
  • Pray
  • Meditate

In keeping with the spirit, thank you all for reading this blog.  I hope these posts have made a positive impact in your life.  Have a wonderful holiday season!

Advice on Tidying a Workspace

mariekondoDo you inhabit a messy workplace?  While your desk contains clutter of your own making, most offices have communal spaces that can quickly get out of hand.  What is the best approach to keeping these common areas clean?

The Konmari Method, created by Marie Kondo, is mostly devoted to helping people organize their personal home space.  However, in an interview with the web site Quartz Marie Kondo shares insights into keeping office spaces clean.

“My suggestion would be for co-workers to tidy up their workplace together. There are many benefits to organizing your desk space, including increasing your efficiency by spending less time looking for the things that you need, being able to more quickly prioritize your workload, and even feeling better as a result of working in a clean environment.”

Read the other questions and answers for Marie in this short article on Quartz.

Email and Your Job

davidallenIt seems like every year the email beast gets larger and hungrier.   According to the the web site Templafy, the average person receives 121 emails a day.  This sheer volume of electronic correspondence lead to a fascinating question that was posted to the Getting Things Done web site:  At what point did answering e-mail become my job? 

The answer from David Allen is very insightful:

“Well, at what point did answering anything—your mail, having conversations in your hallway—become your job? It’s all your job. You just have to decide what your work is. As the late, great Peter Drucker said, that’s your biggest job, to define what your work is.”

Read the rest of his response on the Getting Things Done web site.

Social Infrastructure

You may be familiar with the term “social capital”— the concept commonly used to measure people’s relationships and networks.  It has been used for many years as a way to emphasize the importance of people in an organization or community.  While this concept is important, what has often been overlooked is the public space that people need for this interaction to take place, known as the Social Infrastructure.

Social Infrastructure is featured in a recent Atlantic article titled, Worry Less About Crumbling Roads, More About Crumbling LibrariesAs author Eliot Klinenberg writes:

palaces“Public institutions, such as libraries, schools, playgrounds, and athletic fields, are vital parts of the social infrastructure. So too are community gardens and other green spaces that invite people into the public realm. Nonprofit organizations, including churches and civic associations, act as social infrastructure when they have an established physical space where people can assemble, as do regularly scheduled markets for food, clothing, and other consumer goods.”

Read the rest of this fascinating article on the Atlantic’s website.  If you enjoy it, look for Klinenberg’s book, Palaces of the People: how social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life at your local library.