Should You Trust Your Gut?

Have you ever faced a tough decision and been given the advice to trust your gut? We tend to assume there is an unconscious but highly aware part of ourselves that intuitively knows the right answer. All we have to do is trust it. However, is that true?

According to a new book by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, called Don’t Trust Your Gut, the answer is no, especially if we want to be happy. In a recent interview article on Vox, journalist Sean Illing shares that “it’s wrong because our intuitions are often influenced by false impressions or dubious conventional wisdom.”

In a conversation with Stephens-Davidowitz, Illing asked him about which conditions are conducive to trusting your gut:

There have been these studies that show if you do something in a controlled environment, many times, then your intuition is able to sense things that it would be impossible to otherwise sense, such as a firefighter who can sense that there’s a fire even before it reaches conscious awareness or is visible.

So I think there are times where our gut can be useful. But I think our gut is massively overrated.

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

Later on in the interview, the discussion turns to the connection between our gut reactions and happiness. Stephens-Davidowitz says about recent studies on the topic:

And they found all these things like, socializing, being with friends: really, really important. Being with your romantic partner: really, really important. Many of us think that we’re gonna have a good time if we just lie on our couch and browse the internet, or go on social media or play an iPhone game. And the data, when you actually ask people doing that, they tend to say they’re not particularly happy doing that.

Read the rest of the article on Vox.

Read a Banned Book

Ever since the first books were written, someone has been trying to ban them. It is a centuries old struggle to preserve the freedom to read against forces that try to stifle the spread of knowledge. This is why the third full week of September is annually celebrated as “Banned Books Week.” A USA Today article summarized the history of the week.

Banned Book Week started 40 years ago as a celebration of the freedom to read but the librarian-led movement is shifting into the world of grassroots organizing as an unprecedented number of book-ban efforts have emerged around the country.

This past year marked one of the busiest years for book challenges in recent memory. Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom summarized the current situation in the article.

The number of challenged books hit an all-time high last year. with 729 challenges, affecting a total of 1597 books – nearly triple the number of challenged books in 2019, according to the American Library Association, which has tracked the annual number of challenges through media and voluntary reports since 1990.

“We’re now seeing efforts to remove books en masse. In the past it might be one parent challenging a particular book in a library and now we’re seeing organized groups take lists of books to boards demanding their removal,” Caldwell-Stone said. “Demanding that elected officials censor these works because they find them offensive, which is the very antithesis of democratic freedom to read, a real attack on liberty.”  

Since most book challenges are local, it is important to support our local librarians by letting our elected officials know that the freedom to read is essential to democracy. Learn more about the topic through the USA Today article.

The High Cost of Delaying Decisions

Have you ever had a tough time making a decision? If so, were you tempted to delay making that choice? If so, did it make the situation better or worse?

Most of the time we think that delaying making a decision will give us more useful time to deliberate which should ultimately lead to a better decision. However, is that true?

In an article by Hollie Richardson called, Decision-Making: Research Shows What Happens When We Wait for “Something Better”, it becomes clear that there is a cost to delaying decisions. As she points out:

Christiane Baumann, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychology, explained the way people think as being like: “The price that I am prepared to pay increases every day by the same amount. That is, the further along I am in the process, the higher the price I will accept.”

This principle can be applied not only to purchases, but also situations such as choice of an employer or a romantic partner: “At the beginning perhaps my standards are high. But over time they may lower so that in the end I may settle for someone I would have rejected in the beginning.”

Basically, the longer we leave it to make a decision, the more we’re prepared to gamble, and our standards can drop.

With this in mind, what decision are you putting off making? What if you made that decision right now?

Read the rest of the article to learn more.

What are your Core Values?

Everything we do is driven by are core values. The type of job we take, the person we choose to be in relationship with, and the friends we make are products of our inner values. However, many people have never taken the time to contemplate exactly what their values are, much less write them down.

Recently I discovered a simple exercise to bringing core values to light. It comes from the website of Scott Jeffrey, “the founder of CEOsage, a transformational leadership agency and resource for self-actualizing individuals.” Why is Jeffrey so interested in helping people identify their values? On his web site he offers the following explanation:

As a business coach, I appreciate the power of values.

I’ve noticed that individuals experience greater fulfillment when they live by their values.

And when we don’t honor our values, our mental, emotional, and physical state suffers. I’ve seen this to be true in my life too.

Scott Jeffrey

Jeffrey presents a seven-step method to articulate any person’s values. An early part of the process is to list possible values. However, this is not done so that one can pick or choose favorites. As Jeffrey explains:

Values aren’t selected; we discover and reveal them. If you start with a list, your conscious mind will test which values appear “better” than others.

That said, if you’re not familiar with working with values, you can scan a list of values to get a sense of your range of options.

Learn the entire process by visiting Scott Jeffrey’s web site.

Get It Out of Your Head

Even though I have taught productivity practices for over ten years, I still find myself being human and slipping back into old ways. Recently I forgot where I placed something important. It happened weeks ago and I have no clear memory in my head about where it could be. It is very frustrating!

Has that ever happened to you?

This incident reminded me of a central tenet of GTD that should be written on my brain. It is the simple practice of getting stuff out your head and into a trusted system.

David Allen, creator of GTD, has often said that our mind is a crappy office space. It is designed for having ideas, not holding them. Despite our remarkable ability to remember lots of things, the mundane details of life can easily escape our memory at any point. This doesn’t take long to happen. For example, have you ever misplaced the keys that were in your hand five minutes ago? How about the promise you made to your boss about meeting a deadline that sailed out of your head the moment you left her office? And how do we ever forget those big events that one should always remember, like a family birthday or anniversary?

Thankfully, the solution to all this is very simple. Keep lists of important items in a trusted place. For me I use the reminder app and calendar on the iPhone for personal items and my Outlook calendar and its reminder functions for work items. The trick is to overcome the inherent human laziness to put off work to another day. The best practice is to put these reminders into your system immediately to ensure they are captured.

When a system like this is set up, it becomes automatic to complete anything. One example from my life is an end of day list that pops up at 8 pm. This includes items such as ensuring the cars are locked up for the night, that the dog gets her pill, and that my daughter has her school laptop on the charger. It is all simple stuff, but easy to forget when tired brain takes over at the end of a busy day.

Therefore, I invite you to recommit to the practice of getting stuff out of your head and into a trusted system. It is the best way to go to bed with a clear head.

The Theory of Constraints

Tiago Forte recently opened up the members only posts on his web site to all readers. Now his hidden gems can be explored by productivity enthusiasts across the world. In honor of this event, I want to highlight an early set of postings that really drew me into his work. It is an eleven-part series breaking down the key points in The Theory of Constraints. Each part in the series is a short read for quick understanding.

What is the Theory of Constraints? I’ll let Tiago describe it:

The Theory of Constraints is deceptively simple. It starts out proposing a series of “obvious” statements. Common sense really. And then before you know it, you find yourself questioning the fundamental tenets of modern business and society.

Eliyahu Goldratt laid out the theory in his 1984 best-selling book The Goal. It was an unusual book for its time — a “business novel” — telling the story of a factory manager in the post-industrial Midwest struggling with his plant. The problems this manager faces are universal, of course, and not only for manufacturing. For 30 years now, readers have recognized their own situation in this fictional story. This flash of recognition is the hook drawing you deeper into the TOC world.

In the first posting Tiago introduces the central concepts of the Theory that are truly paradigm changing.

The first statement that TOC makes is that every system has one bottleneck tighter than all the others, in the same way a chain has only one weakest link.

This is followed by another key statement.

The second statement is that the performance of the system as a whole is limited by the output of the tightest bottleneck or most limiting constraint.

Read the first posting to learn more about this celebrated system improvement process. The entire series is posted here.

Censorship Battles in Public Libraries

Across the country libraries have seen an increase in book challenges, especially around race relations and LGBTQ-themed books. While these sorts of challenges have always been part of the landscape, during the past year they have intensified. The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom recently reported that challenges quadrupled in 2021. The office also keeps a list of the top ten most recently challenged books on its web site.

An example of how this struggle is happening is encapsulated in a recent story about the Citrus County Library System and a battle by activists to get a seat on its Advisory Board. The Tampa Bay Times reported on the story of the battle that started over a small Pride Month display.

The yearly LGBTQ Pride Month display in the Citrus County library went largely unnoticed until 2021.

But last year, the small array of LGBTQ-themed books surrounded by rainbow hearts and signs saying “love is love” became a point of contention that has expanded into a larger partisan battle, pushed by the fringes of the conservative movement, over censorship and children’s education.

Last month, the library’s advisory board was inundated with candidates trying to replace five of the nine sitting board members. It was the first time the board, which does not control the content on the library shelves, had seen such interest.

Read the full story on the Tampa Bay Times web site.

Leading Your Team to Productivity

Back at this year’s Florida Library Association annual conference, the FLA Professional Development Committee released a video highlighting productivity practices, tips and tricks from three leaders in the library field. I was included along with Dr. Leo Lo, Dean and Professor of the College of University Libraries and Learning Services and Dr. Vanessa Reyes, Assistant Professor for the School of Information at the University of South Florida.

I was interviewed by Amy Harris, Instruction & Assessment Librarian at Saint Leo University. During my portion of the presentation, I discussed the basic principle of GTD and how to apply them in the workplace.

The full video can be found on YouTube.

Director’s Dialogue – A Public Libraries Podcast

The PLA Leadership Development Committee is always looking for ways to bring value to library workers across the profession. Earlier this year, the committee developed an idea to do a podcast series where current Public Library Directors would have a casual conversation about their work and offer insights into the profession. This led to the creation of a new Public Libraries podcast special edition episode called Director’s Dialogue.

The inaugural episode featured me and Kent Oliver, who recently retired as chief executive of the Nashville Public Library. Future episodes will aim to provide a diverse cross section of library leaders from both large and small systems.

The description for the twenty-minute episode was as follows:

From leadership and management matters to current public library hot topics to strategic planning, capital projects, collection development, program planning, and so much more, the Directors Dialogue episodes aim to share ideas, best practices, and lessons learned.

Both are also members of the PLA Leadership Development Committee and the idea for the Library Directors Conversation series came out of their committee discussions.

Listen online or through your favorite podcast app and watch for more episodes later this year.