Declutter your Life

Did you get any presents over the holidays? Between gift exchanges, Secret Santa, and surprise items, no doubt your home is filled with lots of extra stuff. Now that the holidays are in the rear view mirror, it is the perfect time to consider to declutter. The challenge is where to start.

This topic was tackled by Ashley Abramson in a recent article on the getpocket web site. Titled How To Declutter Your Life in 15 Steps, she give suggestions to tidy up and clear out both for physical and electronic spaces. Her first step is to focus on the trash!

This is the fun part. Before you can organize the items you want to keep around, you literally need to trash the stuff that doesn’t belong. To begin the process of decluttering your home, walk through each room with a trash bag. Be ruthless with all the knick knacks, papers, and crusty cosmetics that are occupying valuable space. Of course, if there’s anything you can donate or recycle, keep that in a separate pile.

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Abramson does not neglect our digital world either. In fact, she starts out by suggesting something that all too many of us forget to do: back everything up!

Backing up photos and important documents not only speeds up your device and frees up memory; it also ensures that if your phone or computer crashes, your information (and memories!) are safe. Enter cloud storage. Take some time to backup the files you want to save on iCloud, Google Photos, or a paid cloud service with more storage space. You can also set your device to automatically back your files up periodically.

Read the rest of her suggestions to declutter your life on the getpocket web site.

Leadership Perspectives – Vision

The difference between a good leader and a great leader often comes down to the ability to craft and communicate a vision for the organization to its employees and the public.

I recently concluded a series of three articles on leadership perspectives for the ALA Learning Exchange newsletter. The latest article focused on the importance of developing and articulating a vision. Below is the start of the article.

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“Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18

Throughout history, humans have sought meaning both in the moment and in the larger scope of events. When times are tough and the world is confusing, people look to their leaders for clarity about the future. This makes casting a vision perhaps the most important skill a leader can master and also the most challenging. 

At its basic level casting a vision is the ability to paint a future from the many factors that make up today. In ancient times, it was commonplace for people to seek out oracles, shamans, and mystics to appeal for divine direction. In our complicated world, this need for guidance has not disappeared. If anything our leaders must be more dynamic with their visions to cut through the clutter of information noise.

Read the rest of the article on the Efficient Librarian web site.

Gazing into the Crystal Ball

2021 proved to be a very unpredictable year. Between the pandemic, political uncertainty, and economic challenges we never knew what would happen next. Still, everyone must plan for the future, including Library Directors and CEOs. So, what are these leaders focusing on with the new year?

In a recent survey I conducted of Urban Library Council members, I asked Directors to share their top concerns for 2022. The results were published in an article on the Public Libraries Online web site. The group reported focusing on a broad range of topics, but far and away the largest was COVID and its fallout.

The pandemic upended the library’s relationship with patrons. Between limited hours, uncertain access to buildings and safety concerns about virus spread, patterns of use changed dramatically. Libraries have seen a drop in visitors that has not reverted back to pre-pandemic levels. A Canadian library director listed a number of possible reasons including:

“The continued effects of the pandemic including changing customer behaviors, hesitancy to frequent public spaces, mental health issues, impact on loss of learning due to school closures, and the shift to online.”

Related to the pandemic were concerns about budgets due to a violate economy.

Several directors commented that their infrastructure is in need of repair and upgrading. However, funding for capital projects is running up against tight operating margins. For example, a California library director shared the following about their system.

“This may not be the case for every library system but over half of our branches are too small and well beyond their normal useful life. There is a high amount of deferred maintenance and insufficient funding resulting in increased deterioration of buildings.”

Explore more thoughts from public library leaders on their top concerns for 2022 at the Public Libraries Online web site.

Make a Simple New Year’s Resolution

With 2021 almost done, it is time to look ahead to 2022. Of course, the new year’s holiday is a traditional time to make a resolution to change something in your life. Whether it is losing weight, exercising more, kicking a bad habit or starting a good one, there are unlimited ways to make a resolution. Sadly, these self promises are often unsuccessful. The web site Discover Happy Habits offers some sobering data:

According to a 2016 study, of the 41% of Americans who make New Years resolutions, by the end of the year only 9% feel they are successful in keeping them.

It goes on to share that the top reasons for failure to keep a resolution include unrealistic goals, failure to track progress, forgetting about it, and setting too many goals.

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To help you set a resolution you can stick to successfully, here is my own advice from personal practice.

1 – Set only one resolution: Too much change is stressful. Instead identify one thing that will make the most impact and focus your energy on that.

2 – Make the goal realistic: For example, promising to run ten miles every day gets old quick. Getting 10,000 steps a day is simpler to achieve and once you are on a roll the target number can be increased.

3 – Identify a simple change that is easy to implement: If you want to eat healthy, it can be jarring to jump from a regular diet to a low calorie one overnight. Instead, select one food item to eliminate, like processed sugar or salty chips. Sometimes a single change is enough to get the desired result.

4 – Track and celebrate: Make a note of your progress at the end of the day. Whether it is tracking your weight or recording exercise minutes, seeing continual progress is encouraging. Even more exciting is building a streak! Once the momentum starts it will see you through tough days.

5 – Set a time commitment– A resolution doesn’t have to be a lifetime change. One way to beat the inertia to get started on a new habit is to put a time limit on it. For example, commit to exercising one hour a day for 60 days. This makes the change reasonable and offers a way out if it doesn’t work for you. Of course, if the change sticks, keep going beyond the initial time commitment.

Good luck with your New Year’s Resolution and have a happy 2022!

Superhuman Email Management

Knowledge jobs of all types require quick communication. Despite the prevalence of chats, channels, and text, email remains the key way to share detailed information. This makes mastery of email an essential modern skill. The catch is that most people never received training on how to handle it effectively. Thankfully, there are easy to learn principles that make email processing effective and fun.

Tiago Forte first learned email management through GTD. From there he expanded on the practice to create a seamless system to completely process his inbox with ease and turn it into an enlightening high value experience. In a recent article on the Superhuman blog, Tiago spoke to Rahul Vohra at Superhuman for an article that highlights four steps to email mastery.

It starts with changing your perspective on email.

“The key to having a more positive outlook toward email is to nail the management,” says Tiago. “Anytime you don’t have a place for information to flow to, it will pile up, multiply, and become a problem.”

“The solution to having too many emails — and not knowing what to do with them — is not found in your inbox,” says Tiago. “You have to solve that problem elsewhere.”

Later on in the article, Tiago shares a key approach to reframing email, slowing down your reactivity.

“When someone sends you a message — especially a colleague, or someone senior to you — there’s a built-in feeling of urgency,” says Tiago. “But is that urgency real? What is the real expectation of this person?”

“Low reactivity is a spiritual discipline,” reveals Tiago. “Go slightly beyond your normal response time. If you normally respond within an hour, try to respond within a day.”

Discover the whole systematic approach to handling email at the Superhuman blog.

GTD Wisdom

David Allen’s insights into the nature of work and how we approach it can be career changing. That was certainly true for me. Below are a few classic David Allen quotes. I invite you to take time to ponder them. They may seem obvious at first, but on deeper reflection there is wisdom that may challenge the way your approach your daily tasks and long term goals. Enjoy!

“If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

“The big problem is that your mind keeps reminding you of things when you can’t do anything about them. It has no sense of past or future. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you need to do something, and store it in your RAM, there’s a part of you that thinks you should be doing that something all the time.”

“Anything that causes you to overreact or under-react can control you, and often does.”

“You must use your mind to get things off your mind.”

“You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it “done.” The list of projects is the compilation of finish lines we put before us, to keep our next actions moving on all tracks appropriately”

“Things rarely get stuck because of lack of time. They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined.”

“There are no problems, only projects.”

The Six Step Guide to Library Worker Engagement

Over the past four years I have focused on building a strong culture in my library system. Unlike revising a policy or plan, strengthening a culture takes time to achieve. One of the key books I have used is Primed to Perform : how to build the highest performing cultures through the science of total motivation. It included ideas such as creating a Firewatchers committee and measuring your culture based on six key factors.

This year a new book has come out on culture that focuses solely on libraries. Written by Elaina Norlin, it is titled, The Six Step Guide to Library Worker Engagement.

In the book, Norlin demonstrates how library workers can easily become disengaged from their work. To prevent this from happening, she identifies the following areas as key to building a strong culture:

  • Leadership and Management
  • Trust
  • Recognition and Praise
  • Feedback and Performance Evaluation
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

To show best practices, Norlin includes interviews with library directors, managers, and leaders from public, academic, and special libraries. I was honored to be interviewed for the section on Feedback and Performance Evaluation. Here’s a portion of that interview.

If a new library director or manager wanted to know how to get started inspiring a more engaged workforce, what would be your advice?

The first step is always to listen. Often a new leader may come in with great ideas and pet projects to launch. However, if they don not take the time to learn more about their organization and connect with the people who comprise it, they may end up going in the wrong direction very quickly. Typically there is a problem or an old way of doing things which is a pain point for the staff that needs to be resolved. A new leader can show their support by tacking that issue first and only afterward start advancing their own ideas.

Find the book at your local library or from the ALA store.

Konmari Approach to Gift Giving

It’s the holiday season and between thoughts of mistletoe and colored lights, most of us are shopping for gifts. However, gift giving can be very stressful. Will it fit them? Will it work in their home? Will they even like it? How do we make better choices when it comes to selecting gifts?

Marie Kondo has ideas on how to choose gifts that will spark joy. For starters, she suggests thinking about the recipient’s lifestyle.

Now, before I search for a gift, I imagine what would spark joy based on the recipient’s lifestyle. I recall specific details about their daily routines, living quarters, and interests: How much space do they have? What activities do they like to do? What objects do they treasure?

Once I’ve considered the details of their day-to-day lives, I can search in earnest.

She also provides an important perspective on not getting attached to the ultimate fate of the gift.

The true purpose of a gift is to be received – whether or not it’s used and loved for years to come is besides the point.

Learn more about how Marie picks gifts on her web site.

Plus, if you want to learn more about Marie’s approach to receiving gifts, please reread my blog post on the topic from 2018.

Benefits of Relaxation

This past two years have been a stressful time. We see it in our politics, our workplaces, and even in our private lives. Chronic stress is well known to be a health hazard which is very problematic with COVID-19 still circulating in the population. With Thanksgiving a few days away, right now is a good time to dedicate yourself to purposeful relaxation.

The benefits of relaxation have been widely studied. They impact us physically, mentally, and energetically. On their website, Advent Health provides a list of ten benefits of relaxation. Here is the first one, improved concentration:

If stress begins to overpower your ability to focus, it may be difficult to accomplish even simple tasks. Relaxation techniques can help give you something else to focus on, allowing your mind a chance to clear. 

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Another important reason relaxation is very important is that it lowers blood pressure.

As your body reaches a state of relaxation, your breathing becomes slower and causes your body to slow down other functions. As your heart rate slows, your overall blood pressure lowers.

Read other eight at the Advent Health web site.

If you need some tips on how to relax, Healthline provides six simple ideas such as breathing it out and writing down your thoughts.

Finally, I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving.