Tidying for Guests

mariekondoWith stores now selling Christmas decorations in the middle of summer, I don’t need to remind you that the holiday season is upon us.  Aside from shopping for gifts, the holidays also bring guests to our door.  And since these friends may not visit often, many a host wants to make a good impression.

In the spirit of the season, Marie Kondo has provided on her blog some quick tips to ensure that your house is looking its best for invited (or uninvited) guests.  For example, she suggests the following:

Do a “Joy Check”

We become so accustomed to living in our space that it is difficult to see it objectively. Start by walking through the front door as if you were a guest. Move through each room, looking at it with fresh eyes. Perhaps you’ve stuffed things in a closet or piled items you’re feeling unsure about. Take this opportunity to ask yourself if these things really spark joy. If they don’t, thank them and let them go.

Explore the rest of her quick tidy tips on the Konmari web site.

Get Ready to Unfocus?

officeyogaWe often associate success at work or in a creative endeavor to be the result of focus.  With so many distractions in the world, people search for ways to focus their mind in order to get things done.  While it is important to focus, does this mean that being unfocused is a waste of time?

Not necessarily according to Srini Pillay in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.  Titled, Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus, Pillay explains why too much focus can be problematic.

“The problem is that excessive focus exhausts the focus circuits in your brain. It can drain your energy and make you lose self-control. This energy drain can also make you more impulsive and less helpful. As a result, decisions are poorly thought-out, and you become less collaborative.”

Deliberately unfocusing the mind shifts it in ways that are extremely beneficial.

“When you unfocus, you engage a brain circuit called the “default mode network.” … Under the brain’s conscious radar, it activates old memories, goes back and forth between the past, present, and future, and recombines different ideas. … you develop enhanced self-awareness and a sense of personal relevance. And you can imagine creative solutions or predict the future, thereby leading to better decision-making too.”

Learn more about the power of “unfocus” and techniques to do it by reading the rest of the article.

Rethinking Projects

How many projects are you working on right now?

When I ask this question in my seminars, most people answer in the range of 1-10.  The reason for this answer is that they believe projects are big and involved endeavors which take weeks or months to complete.   But I ask in this case are they thinking too big?

person holding turned on laptop

According to GTD, a project is anything that requires more than one action to complete.  By this definition, the number of projects we are working on balloons to fifty or more!  Of course, many of these projects are quickly dispatched in less than a day or even an hour.  The catch is that when we fail to recognize these small items as projects, they tend to pile up around us.  Each little incomplete project takes up mental space, leading to an ongoing background sense of anxiety.

The solution according to GTD is the complete project list.  It asks you to assess your total life work at the moment by listing every project in one place.  Remember, a project is something that can be completed, as opposed to an area of responsibility which is ongoing.  For example, an area of responsibility is personal health, and a project to support it could be to sign up for exercise classes.

This project list helps in at least three significant ways:

1/ The project list serves as a reminder of incomplete items.  This can alleviate worry about losing track of projects that may come back to haunt you later.

2/ A project list forces people to get specific about the next physical actions needed to move the item from an open loop to a completed project. It accelerates completion of work.

3/ By having a full inventory of current workload, it becomes easier to recognize limitations and enables people to safely reject new projects in order to keep their professional dignity and sanity intact.

As David Allen, creator of GTD says, “You can only feel good about what you are not doing when you know what you are not doing.”   Helpful project tips are listed on the Getting Things Done web site.

So draft a project list and keep it updated.  You may be surprised at how much you are really doing!

Fine Free @ PBCLS

pbclslogoDoes anyone like overdue fines?  Library members hate paying them, the staff dislike collecting them, and do they even work to get people to return items on time?

That is why I’m happy to announce that the Palm Beach County Library System has become fine free.  By doing so we have joined the ranks of public libraries across the country that realized library fines are an antiquated notion.  Starting on October 1, the Library System moved to the fine free model.  In a recent Palm Beach Post article, reporter Hannah Morse quoted from my presentation to the Board of County Commissioners the reasons why this change was required.

“Across the nation, public libraries now view fines as an impediment to service,” said Douglas Crane, director of the county library system. “Late fines actually stand in opposition to the library’s core values of equitable service, supporting early literacy and free access to information.”

Crane added that fines “act as a barrier and create inequitable service, disproportionately impacting children and community members with limited financial means.”

Learn all about the change on the library’s web site. And remember, you still need to bring your items back.  We just won’t nickel and dime you about it if you are a few days late.

10 Minute Tidy Up

If you studied science in high school, you may be familiar with the “Second Law of Thermodynamics”.  It states in a nutshell that “entropy increases.”  In layman’s terms it means that all systems move towards a state of disorder.  You don’t have to be a scientist to see how this plays out in life.  Just take a moment to look around and see how quickly personal and work spaces becomes cluttered.  It is amazing how quickly our spaces become disorganized, and equally demoralizing to consider the hours it will take to restore them.

claire-tompkinsIt need not come to this state.  To keep our spaces clean and orderly on an ongoing basis, a simple approach works best.  One method is the 10 minute tidy up, suggested by Claire Tompkins, aka the Clutter Coach, in her book 52 Simple Ways to Get Organized.  She describes the technique on page 11:

“Just as it is better to wipe up a spill right away, the ten-minute tidy up will keep your space organized with much less effort than spending half of a Saturday on it.  If you do this daily, ten minutes should be plenty.”

She suggests tidying up at transition times, such as before leaving the house or immediately after dinner.  If you are interested in trying it out, she suggests making a list of three spots to tidy today before bed.

Small actions can reverse the weight of entropy in your home.  Why not try a 10 minute tidy today!

When to Use Your First Brain

Memory is fleeting or so we are told.  Everyone has had the experience of forgetting something important.  Both David Allen and Tiago Forte have written about the importance of not relying on your brain to remember information, but instead to put the data into a trusted system.  This process is at the core of most productivity advice.

gautama buddha

However, are their times when we should rely on our biological memory over a database or electronic “second brain”?  In a guest post on Tiago Forte’s Praxis blog, Tasshin Fogleman, a Buddhist monk, argues the value of memorization has great merit in this electronic age.  He writes:

Building A Second Brain (BASB) is an effective default for personal knowledge management (PKM) in the digital era. But outsourcing our creative thinking to a second brain has its pitfalls.

A robust memory can be a useful supplement to digital PKM systems. Contrary to Tiago’s assumptions, memory is not a useless, outmoded relic of our biological bodies. It is an astonishing skill, and we would be unwise to overlook it.”

Fogleman proceeds to share several methods to improve our memory, including Spaced Repetition, Mind Palaces, the Mindful Review, and more.  Read all about them in his guest post.

Join the Petition Against McMillan

Have you ever heard of a business flat out refusing to sell their product to a reliable and well funded customer?  Sounds like a crazy way to do business.  However, that is the case right now between some publishers and libraries. Hachette and HarperCollins are two publishers who have changed their lending models to make it more expensive and restrictive for libraries to purchase eBooks and eAudiobooks.

Now, one publisher has decided to implement a new model designed to severely limit public libraries from providing eBooks to their residents.  Beginning November 1, 2019, Macmillan Publishers will allow libraries to purchase only one copy of each new eBook title for the first eight weeks after a book’s release.  Macmillan claims that libraries are eating into their profits, yet libraries already pay on average $25 per title, and often have to buy it again after a set number of downloads or years.  As the American Library Association states:

ala-logo“This embargo would limit libraries’ ability to provide access to information for all.  It particularly harms library patrons with disabilities or learning issues. One of the great things about eBooks is that they can become large-print books with only a few clicks, and most eBook readers offer fonts and line spacing that make reading easier for people who have dyslexia or other visual challenges. Because portable devices are light and easy to hold, eBooks are easier to use for some people who have physical disabilities.

Here’s the truth: Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for readers like you.”

Help ensure that public libraries have access to eBooks for all readers.  Sign the ALA petition to let publishers know that access to eBooks is a right for all!