Strategic Willpower

Why is that some days we can keep to good habits, such as exercise and eating healthy, while on other days we sit on the couch all night and eat cookies? It seems that our willpower varies from day to day, if not hour to hour. Therefore, how can we avoid falling to temptations and keep to our intentions?

Recently, Darious Foroux wrote an article that explored the idea of strategic willpower and how it can enable us to keep to our intentions. He put the problem very succinctly:

The thing about staying consistent is that life always finds a way to get in the way, no matter what you’re trying to achieve. So we’re better off expecting that things can always go wrong.

Foroux goes on to share studies that appear to demonstrate that our willpower can fade when we are forced to expend it. He then explores how stay true to our intentions even when tired or emotional.

To live a good life, every single one of us needs to know how our willpower works. Do you find it difficult to make decisions late at night? Avoid it!

Finally, he sums up the topic as such:

To simplify, willpower is your ability to follow through on all your little and big goals. If you say you’re going to stop eating junk food and you eat a muffin for breakfast, there’s something wrong.

It’s up to you to figure out what the problem is. Strategic willpower means we’re aware of this concept. We don’t go through life like a mindless robot. We take the time to look at our actions and we do things when we’re at our best.

Read the entire article on Foroux’s web site.

How to Get to Inbox Zero

Text of a talk given at the PLA 2022 National Conference on the “How To” Stage.

How many emails do you have in your inbox right now, read or unread? 

In my informal polling, most people have anywhere from dozens to hundreds or even thousands of messages. Keep in mind that a 2019 study by DMR estimated that the average person received 121 emails a day. Without a fast and efficient system to dispatch these messages, inbox backlog will slow down work and increases stress. While one could declare email bankruptcy by deleting the entire contents of the inbox, this is hardly practical. Instead, with the application of a few simple best practices the stress of email management can be vanquished.

Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on

David Allen, author of the bestselling book, Getting Things Done, has thought deeply about workflow. He developed a system of best practices that revolve around managing workflow in an efficient manner. This approach can be used by any level of knowledge worker. It starts with a basic premise, so please repeat after me:

My inbox is not a storage location. It is a processing station.

Learn more by reading the rest in the articles section of this website.

ChatGPT Guest Post – How to Reduce Stress at Work

Today I decided once more to test the ChatGPT AI to see how it reacts to writing a blog post with references to recent articles. The topic I gave it was to: write a blog post using recent article references on the topic of how to reduce stress at work

Below is what it generated. I’ll provide my thoughts at the end of the post.

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Start of Blog Post:

Stress at work is a common problem that affects millions of people worldwide. From deadlines to heavy workloads, it can be challenging to manage stress levels when working. The good news is that there are practical steps you can take to reduce stress at work and improve your overall well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore some recent article references on how to reduce stress at work.

  1. Take breaks regularly

One of the most effective ways to reduce stress at work is to take breaks regularly. According to a recent article by Harvard Business Review, taking short breaks throughout the day can help to reduce stress levels and increase productivity. Research has shown that taking a 15-minute break every 90 minutes can be highly beneficial for both mental and physical health. So, make sure to schedule regular breaks throughout your workday.

  1. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent years, and for a good reason. According to a recent article by Forbes, practicing mindfulness can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. There are various mindfulness practices you can try, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga. These practices can help you to stay calm and centered when faced with stressful situations at work.

  1. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for reducing stress levels. According to a recent article by Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep can lead to increased stress levels, decreased productivity, and impaired cognitive function. To improve your sleep quality, try to establish a regular sleep routine, avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and create a comfortable sleep environment.

  1. Communicate with your colleagues

Effective communication is crucial for reducing stress at work. According to a recent article by Psychology Today, communicating with your colleagues can help to reduce misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and build stronger relationships. When you feel stressed, don’t hesitate to reach out to your colleagues for support. Discussing your concerns and sharing your workload can help you to feel less overwhelmed.

  1. Prioritize self-care

Finally, prioritizing self-care is essential for reducing stress at work. According to a recent article by Harvard Business Review, practicing self-care can help to improve your overall well-being and reduce stress levels. Self-care involves taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. Some self-care practices you can try include exercise, healthy eating, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing a hobby you enjoy.

In conclusion, reducing stress at work is crucial for maintaining good mental and physical health. By taking regular breaks, practicing mindfulness, getting enough sleep, communicating effectively with colleagues, and prioritizing self-care, you can reduce stress levels and improve your overall well-being. Remember to make these practices a regular part of your routine, and you’ll soon feel more relaxed, focused, and productive at work.

End of Blog Post

My Thoughts:

The post did indeed generate a simple blog post focusing on stress reduction techniques, which was created in under ten seconds. Along with the quick turnaround, a few things caught my eye.

First of all, while it made references to recent articles, it did not provide a link or notation about the date the articles were published. Therefore, the reader has to do the legwork to track them down.

Second, three of the five tips were not specifically work related. “Taking breaks” and “Communicating with Colleagues” were the only two workplace specific items. The other three were broad suggestions, that while useful, did not exactly match my initial prompt.

Third and final, none of the stress reduction tips had in-depth steps on how to do them. For example, the section on self-care provided basic ideas, but was entirely generic. This could be a function of my initial prompt. Experimenting with the instructions to the AI could guide it to fix the problems encountered above.

Go over to ChatGPT to give it a try for free.

The PARA Method – Projects and Areas

Before you read further, please take a few moments to either grab, or write out, your current list of projects. Don’t worry, I’ll wait …

Very good – now look down the list. Do you see broad subjects like Hiring, Strategic Plan, Scheduling, or Direct Reports? If so, you don’t have a project list, you have an area list. Don’t understand the difference? In a recent post on his blog, Tiago Forte shares his PARA method of organization, in which he spends time discussing the difference between and area and a project.

You have projects you’re actively working on – short-term efforts (in your work or personal life) that you take on with a certain goal in mind.

You have areas of responsibility – important parts of your work and life that require ongoing attention. 

In short, projects are finite, with a beginning, middle, and end. Areas are ongoing. So long as you are responsible for them, they never end.

This means when we organize our work, especially in a digital environment, Tiago recommends using the PARA Method. We just learned what the first two letters in the acronym mean. Here are the explanations for the remaining two letters.

Then you have resources on a range of topics you’re interested in and learning about.

Finally, you have archives, which include anything from the previous three categories that is no longer active, but you might want to save for future reference.

This simple formatting system allows people to organize their work landscape. In fact, the order of the letters in PARA are an indication of how Tiago views the primary driver of work – our projects.

Instead of organizing information according to broad subjects like in school, I advise you to organize it according to the projects and goals you are committed to right now. This is what it means to “organize by actionability,” a mantra I will return to again and again.

Read more about the PARA Method, with detailed examples, on his blog at Forte Labs.

How to Talk About Book Bans

It seems that every day the news reports another school district or public library being inundated with demands to ban books. Looking back in history these moral panic waves hit every couple of decades, but their effects if successful last for a long time. Often it is a vocal minority that powers these attacks on the freedom to read. Yet, when it comes down to the facts, do a majority of people support ban books. The truth is clearly they do not.

According to United Against Book Bans, 71% of voters oppose banning books in public libraries and a similar 67% oppose it in schools. The problem is that most people don’t realize the underlying negative impacts that book bans have on minorities and other targeted groups. How do we reach out to the silent majority who oppose book bans to educate and activate them on this important issue?

Photo by Element5 Digital on

Kelly Jensen writing for Book Riot recently authored an article titled: How to Talk about Book Bans with Friends, Library Patrons, and More. In the piece she provided helpful tips to encourage supports to speak out against book bans. For friends she suggests a few things including:

Share data, statistics, and research as much as you do the terrible and/or click-y stories about the absurdity of certain challenges. It IS ridiculous that books about sports heroes were banned in a Florida school district. But what is also absurd and far more actionable is noting that book bans are extremely unpopular with the public (research) and that when given the choice to opt their kids out of school library materials, it is the smallest minority of parents who do (research).

When talking to library patrons, she suggests many approaches, including sharing widely when a book challenge takes place:

If your library is dealing with a book challenge, make sure your power users know that they need to attend the board meeting and/or submit a letter in support of the book. As noted in the previous section, use the data, research, and statistics to back up the need for the library to include materials for all.

Read the rest of the article on the Book Riot website.

Decluttering Made Easy

Is your home or workplace cluttered? For most people the answer is an affirmative yes!

For those getting an early jump on spring cleaning, I recently came across advice on the NPR web site about how to get it done effectively. Reporter Andree Tagle interviewed organizing expert Star Hansen who shared ways to organize without the stress. However, before you start clearing away belongings, she believes it is important to understand your clutter.

Hansen says everyone’s clutter tells a personal story. “What becomes clutter and where your clutter accumulates can say a lot about what’s going on with you.”

If you have unwanted piles of stuff accumulating around your house, ask yourself: “What’s making this hard to get rid of?” she says. “A lot of times, the trip-up is from holding on to the past or wanting a different reality than the one we’re living in.”

That blazer that hasn’t fit for years? Maybe it reveals a yearning for your former profession. Those 20 pairs of chopsticks in your kitchen drawer? Maybe they’re speaking to your guilt around waste and sustainability.

When you understand the reasons behind your clutter, says Hansen, it’s a lot easier to know what to keep and what to get rid of.

Hansen also cautions against being too eager to clear it all out in one day. The process takes time.

When it comes to organizing, don’t bite off more than you can chew, says Hansen. If you start off with too big a goal, you might get discouraged if the job takes too long.

So don’t try to revamp your entire garage in one afternoon. Instead, start with something less challenging, like your purse or one single bathroom drawer. Save more complicated items, like tax paperwork, or sentimental items, like family photos and memorabilia, for last. These kinds of organizational projects often take the most time and emotional energy, says Hansen, so you’ll want to build up your decluttering muscle first.

Read three more tips for expert decluttering on the NPR website.

How Managers Can Help Their Team Focus

Have you ever been on a team that lost its focus? You and your teammates may have wasted time wandering down dead ends, getting caught up arguing over trivial items, or had assumed next actions lie incomplete due to a lack of delegation? While there are many contributing factors to such failures, a good manager can make or break a team.

In an increasingly distracted world, one skill that can elevate managers is the ability to focus their team on the priorities. In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, GTD founder David Allen and Justin Hale break down seven ways that managers can help their teams focus on work. Not surprisingly, the ideas are born out the GTD principles. This first suggestion is to inventory tasks and projects.

This is a discipline where common sense is not common practice. If your people don’t have a complete list of their commitments and projects, they can’t realistically prioritize. As a leader, hold people accountable for keeping current to-do lists and give them time each week to do a full weekly review of these commitments so they can stay in control.

Another way managers can help their employees focus is to make meetings meaningful.

Most people’s workdays are monopolized by meetings. Help employees stay focused by allowing them to decline meaningless meetings. To improve meeting efficacy, one manager we coached set a bold precedent. He said, “If someone invites you to a meeting without a clear agenda and reasons why you’re vital to the success of the meeting, you have my permission to decline it.” This manager put the onus back on the meeting creator (which was often himself) to show greater respect for others’ time. It also put employees in control of their days so they could focus on high-priority work.

Read the other five suggestions at the Harvard Business Review website.

Productivity Propaganda?

At first glance it would seem that productivity is a good thing. After all, who doesn’t want to get more done in less time? However, what happens if the push for increased productivity comes at the expense of enjoyment of life? Does it matter if you get more done if that which is being done is of little value?

Digital anthropologist and author Rahaf Harfoush recently explored this topic in a book called Hustle & Float: Reclaim Your Creativity and Thrive in a World Obsessed With Work. In her book she explored workplace burnout and how to avoid it. Bloomberg Businessweek interviewed her during the COVID pandemic to learn more about how to balance work and life in the era or work-from-home.

This isn’t a normal time, so it shouldn’t be treated as normal work-from-home time. The lines between home and work, personal and professional, are blurred with an additional pressure to be productive since the thinking is that we all suddenly have more available time. This isn’t the case, and furthermore, working nonstop simply doesn’t work. We have turned busyness into a coping mechanism. Now, people are applying that to their personal time while sheltering at home, filling it with back-to-back Zoom calls, baking, workouts, and more activity. It’s important to use some of this time to process our emotions and reflect on the discomfort from all this productivity propaganda. Operating as usual will not only negatively affect your work but could compromise your health.

The interview ended with a warning for those who work around the clock.

If you’re a high performer and recovery isn’t an intentional and strategic part of your time and workflow, you’re only damaging your output in the long run.

Read the whole interview online.

Efficient Librarian In-Person Workshops and Webinars Announced for Early 2023

This year I will be back on the road doing in-person classes in New Orleans and across Florida, along with several virtual offerings.

Most of the trainings listed below are sponsored by a Florida Library Cooperative and are free of charge to Florida library staff. Non-Florida library staff may register for a reasonable fee. The January 29th session is part of the LibLearnX Conference and is free of charge to registered attendees.

If you are interested in having a workshop in your area, please reach out to me at I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming workshop.

From Inbox to Completion: The Secrets to Successful Workflow
January 25, 2023, 2-3 pm (EST)
Sponsored by SWFLN

Finding Your Leadership Pathway
January 29, 2023, 1 pm – 4 pm (CST)
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
LibLearnX Conference – New Orleans, LA

The Efficient Librarian
February 3, 2023, 9 am – 12:30 pm (EST)
Palm Beach County Library System – Hagen Ranch Road Branch
Sponsored by SEFLIN

Finding Your Leadership Pathway
March 3, 2023, 9 am – 12:30 pm (EST)
Palm Beach County Library System – West Boca Branch
Sponsored by SEFLIN

Managing Employee Performance: A Simple Formula for Talking with Staff
March 6, 2023, 2-3 pm (EST)
Sponsored by SWFLN

Finding Your Leadership Pathway
March 7, 2023, 1 pm – 4:00 pm (EST)
NEFLIN HQ – Orange Park, FL
Sponsored by NEFLIN

The Efficient Librarian
March 9, 2023, 9 am – 12:30 pm (EST)
Leroy Collins, Leon County Library – Tallahassee
Sponsored by PLAN

Overcoming the Email Avalanche: Three Steps to an Empty Inbox
May 9, 2023, 2-3 pm (EST)
Sponsored by SWFLN