Brutal Truths About Productivity

The feeling of being productive is awesome. There is a deep satisfaction in checking stuff off our to-do lists. However, there is a difference between being productive with simple tasks versus complicated projects. In the book Joy at Work, which I summarized last week, Marie Kondo makes a distinction between the urgent and the important. Urgent things are usually the small tasks that are easy to do but ultimately make little difference to our lives. The important tasks are hard to do, but make the most impact towards our larger goals and objectives. True productivity comes down to focusing on the latter and not the former. But how do we do this?

In an article in the Pocket web site, Thomas Oppong share 6 Brutal Truths about Productivity that can help people focus on what is truly important. For example, one of the six truths has to do with power of getting started.

The biggest hurdle for many of us is simply getting started. Making that important decision to take a step. You can be as big and successful as you can possibly imagine if you build that mindset you need to push yourself to make that all important decision to just start.

You have everything you need to make an impact in the world if you can get past the many reasons why should postpone that task. Don’t think too far into the future.

Use what you have right now at where you are and witness the magic of getting things done.

Read the other five truths on the Pocket web site.

The Ninety Minute Self Help Book Challenge

Below is the opening of a new article that can be found on the Efficient Librarian web site.

Last month I highlighted a strategy by Darius Foroux. He claimed a reader could get just about everything useful out of a self help book in only ninety minutes.  To explore his technique I tested it out on Joy at Work by Marie Kondo & Scott Sonenshein.  Here’s what I found.

Step One in Foroux’s method was to pick the book wisely.  I choose Joy at Work. It is a follow-up to Marie Kondo’s best selling The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up which focused on the home. My family had fun applying the Konmari principles to our house last summer, so I was curious to see how the philosophy could be transferred to the workplace. Given that I am a firm believer in GTD, I was also interested in learning how her techniques complimented and contrasted David Allen’s classic approach to getting things done. 

Learn what happened in Steps Two, Three and Four by reading the rest of the article at the Efficient Librarian web site.

COVID on Library Materials – Part II

A few weeks back I reported on the first phase of an important study. The REALM Project is a partnership between the Columbus Metropolitan Library, OCLC, and the Battelle research labs. In the first round of testing five types of library items were studied to determine how long the virus lasts on these surfaces. According to the result of the first phase of the study: “Results show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the materials after three days of quarantine.”

Last week the REALM Project released phase two of the study, this time looking at five more library items including:

*Braille paper pages
*Glossy paper pages from a coffee table book
*Magazine pages
*Children’s board book
*Archival folders

The findings were similar to the phase one results.

Results show that after two days of quarantine in a stacked configuration, the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the archival folders.

After four days of quarantine in their stacked configuration, the virus was not detectable on the braille pages, glossy book pages, and board book.

The magazine pages showed a trace amount of virus at four days. Day four was the final time point tested.

These results continue to support the practice of quarantining library materials for at least three days. Download the full phase two report to learn more about the study and its findings.

Is this what Productivity is Missing?

Let’s be honest, if you search for productivity books in Amazon, the majority of titles shown in the results are written by men. Why is this so? It can’t be that men are the only ones worried about getting things done quickly and efficient. Also, what does this mean for our understanding of productivity itself? Is there something missing if only men are writing about it?

In a recent article at Forte Labs, Lauren Valdez explores this question. She believes one reason for this result is that books written by women are placed into the “organization” category. For example a search for decluttering books in Amazon produces almost the exact opposite result with women being the predominant authors. However, Lauren believes the truth runs deeper than just a matter of odd cataloging.

Productivity is not about optimizing every aspect of your life or being well-versed on the latest and most flashy new app. The point of productivity is to do what brings you pleasure and to have more freedom. We aren’t machines. We are humans.

To be productive, we all need to balance the logical, technical side with the emotional, intuitive side. These can be understood as masculine and feminine energies. I define masculine-energy as associated with logic, order, and the technical, whereas feminine energy is associated with intuition, self-awareness, and creativity.

Another way we can think about this is using the left-side and right-side of the brain. Most productivity advice lies on the masculine side, but you need the yin and yang balance between both these energies. No matter where on the gender spectrum you fall, we all can tap into our masculine and feminine energies.

Read the rest of the article on the Forte Labs web site.

What is Killing Your Focus?

Have you ever been distracted?

We are often our own worst enemy, as it is very easy to be enthralled by the next shiny bauble. However, sometimes it is other who distract us. The ability to focus is key to getting anything done well. There are many possible reasons for our inability to focus. In his recent article The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus published in the Harvard Business Review, writer William Treseder narrows down the culprits to two specific causes, our electronic devices and meetings.

First, we increasingly are overwhelmed with distractions flying at us from various connected devices. Smartphone and tablet use is spiking, and we now use digital media for an average of over 12 hours per day. This hyper-connected state does not allow us to process, recharge, and refocus.

Second, we rely excessively on meetings as the default form of interaction with other people at work. Studies indicate that we spend anywhere from 35–55 percent of our time, and sometimes much more, in meetings. If we want to stay focused on truly meaningful activity, something has to change.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

How do we get around these obstacles in order to better focus? Treseder suggests several approaches. For example, to make meetings more useful he suggests we shrink the number of people in attendance.

Countless studies, starting with this 2015 HBR research, have shown the benefits of smaller teams. Focus and responsibility are more challenging with too many people — which is how you end up with folks staring down silently at their laptops for an entire meeting. To stay focused, keep your team focused. Limit the number of people in any meeting to eight or fewer unless it is a meeting that is purely informational.

Read the full article to learn the other suggestions that will

Speed Reading Self Help Books

Even though I am a librarian, it has been a struggle lately to read books cover to cover. Perhaps it is due to age, or the pandemic stress, or simply competing demands on my time, but sitting down with a book is not simple anymore. Yet there are still many titles I want to read for self development. What can I do?

The answer might be to follow the advice in the article How To Read A Self-Help Book In 90 Minutes by Darius Foroux. He outlines a simple four step plan to quickly identify and deploy the most useful pieces of advice from any book. For example the first step is to choose wisely:

Why do you read a book? Is it because someone recommends it? Or because it’s an NYT bestseller? Those are lousy reasons to pick up a book and invest your time in reading it.I have only 1 question that helps me to decide reading a book: Is this book currently relevant to me? In other words: Will this book help me now? If the answer is no, I don’t read it. … You can’t expect to retain the information you read forever. That’s why you want to read books that are relevant to you.

Darius Foroux

I am going to use his approach to tackle Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein. In a future article I’ll share my summary of the key points and my experience using Foroux’s system.

Does COVID-19 Survive on Library Materials?

There is much we know and still don’t know about COVID-19. Most public libraries closed in response to the pandemic, with many of them still not reopened. Among the diverse questions librarians had to consider in their reopening plans perhaps the biggest one is how long COVID-19 survives on library material. Most libraries like mine in Palm Beach County choose to quarantine items for three days out of caution. This was based on general studies of the lifespan of the virus on similar types of material.

Now we have a study conducted that specifically looked at the virus and library material. The REALM Project is a partnership between the Columbus Metropolitan Library, OCLC, and the Battelle research labs. In the first round of testing five types of library items were studied to determine how long the virus lasts on these surfaces. The results came in last week.

Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com

According to the study, “Results show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was not detectable on the materials after three days of quarantine.” In fact for many items the virus was undetectable after only one day. This shows that libraries which practice the three day quarantine method are providing safe materials for the public.

See the full results of the initial study on the REALM web site.

The Art of Stress Free Productivity

Today I want to share a classic David Allen video.

When I first discovered GTD back in 2011 I searched for anything related to David Allen and his teachings. One of the most impactful pieces was a video of his first TEDx talk from Claremont College. I have lost track of the number of times I have watched it, but it always yields something new on repeat viewings.

Right off the top, David shares a central theme of GTD. It is the idea of appropriate engagement:

“Getting things done is not about getting things done. It’s really about being appropriately engaged with what’s going on. Appropriate engagement is the real key here. Many times not getting something done is the way to appropriately engage with it. … There is some key, something unique about being appropriately engaged. Why does a crisis get us there? Because it forces us to do the behaviors that get us there.”

The video is twenty two minutes, but it is time well spent. Share in the comments your biggest insight from watching it.

A Personal Awareness

Back in November, 2019, which seems like years ago now, I had the honor of meeting Shola Richards at the Florida Public Library Director’s meeting in Tallahassee.  I was deeply impressed by his energy and enthusiasm for improving our work spaces and our lives.  He was funny and deeply moving at the same time. We are having him come virtually to Palm Beach in the summer to work with my library staff.  

It turns out that Shola and I have a lot of things in common.  We are both happily married to awesome women who are also our best friends.  We are both fathers, Shola to two daughters and my one daughter, all around the same age.  We are both at first reluctant, and but now enthusiastic, dog owners.  We both live in beautiful parts of the country.  We are both passionate trainers who want to change people’s lives.  Although I will admit he is much more handsome than me!   However a couple weeks ago Shola shared in his weekly email message one profound way that our lives are different.  It is something that I take for granted every day.  For him, it could be a matter of life and death. 

The title of his message was Why I’ll Never Walk Alone.

Twice a day, I walk my dog Ace around my neighborhood with one, or both, of my girls. I know that doesn’t seem noteworthy, but here’s something that I must admit:

I would be scared to death to take these walks without my girls and my dog. In fact, in the four years living in my house, I have never taken a walk around my neighborhood alone (and probably never will). …

When I’m walking down the street holding my young daughter’s hand and walking my sweet fluffy dog, I’m just a loving dad and pet owner taking a break from the joylessness of crisis homeschooling.

But without them by my side, almost instantly, I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks. Instead of being a loving dad to two little girls, unfortunately, all that some people can see is a 6’2” athletically-built black man in a cloth mask who is walking around in a place where he doesn’t belong (even though, I’m still the same guy who just wants to take a walk through his neighborhood). Its equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of possibly being targeted.

Reading his post had a deep impact on me.  Every day I step out my front door to walk to the mailbox, or roller blade around the block, or walk my dog without a hint of concern.  All my life I have felt comfortable walking through city streets without fear of being profiled.  I take for granted how the color of my skin gives me freedoms that others do not have.   

At the library we have a mission to connect communities, inspire thought and enrich lives.  Racism and violence are in direct opposition to it.   It is impossible to connect communities when racism and violence create barriers to trust.   It is impossible to inspire thought when racism and violence shut down understanding.   It is impossible to enrich lives when racism and violence favor some groups of people above others.  

Shola’s description of what he feels is necessary to do to stay safe on a simple walk through a peaceful community is heartbreaking.  Let us all commit to building a world where everyone feels safe walking the streets of their neighborhood and where the color of our skin does not keep us from stepping out our front door alone.  

As human beings we owe this to each other.

To learn more about Shola and his work, please visit his web site for more information and videos of him in action.