Stoic Time Management

Given the high speed of modern life, it would seem that the need for daily time management skills is a recent development. However, a look through history shows that busy people in every age were concerned about making effective use of their time.

In Ancient Greece and Rome a simple but profound philosophy of life developed called Stoicism. An article on the Daily Stoic web site defines stoicism as this:

“The philosophy asserts that virtue (such as wisdom) is happiness and judgment should be based on behavior, rather than words. That we don’t control and cannot rely on external events, only ourselves and our responses.

Stoicism has just a few central teachings. It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be. How brief our moment of life is. How to be steadfast, and strong, and in control of yourself. And finally, that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses rather than logic.

While browsing the Daily Stoic, I came across an article on stoicism and time management. The five principles highlighted in this article show that the wisdom of the ancients still has value in our busy 21st Century society. For example:

Take Your Time On Things That Matter

Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen” Epictetus, “Discourses”

Sometimes we’re forced to rush things. Maybe our boss is putting pressure on us to meet certain deadlines, or maybe it’s our own internal pressure; our own internal deadlines. We live in a fast-paced world where everything is an emergency. But if we truly wish to improve our time management skills, it’s more important that we slow down and be still.

Read more about this principle and four more on The Daily Stoic web site.

How to Get Workflow Under Control – From Inbox to Done

Just a quick note that a short article I wrote was published in the ALA’s Learning Exchange Newsletter – December 2019. It is titled How to Get Workflow Under Control – From Inbox to Done. The core of the article is a brief summary of the GTD Five Stages of Workflow.

Workflow is a concept that simply refers to how we move things from ideas to actions.  One of the simplest workflow systems available is known as GTD, short for Getting Things Done.  David Allen, a former management consultant, devised the system over twenty years ago and it has developed into one of the most heavily used approaches to handling knowledge work.  Implementing the system requires very little set up time and can be done in any office situation.   The system is immortalized in his famous book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

If you haven’t reviewed the five stages recently, or are new to the concept, take a few minutes to read the article. I posted it on my site for easy reading. It might inspire you to get some things done!

The Kernel of Creativity

We use the word a lot, but what exactly is creativity?  It seems like everyone wants more of it from ourselves and our colleagues, but it is not like a faucet that can be turned on at will.  David Allen used a recent blog post to ponder the subject:

“The time and energy required for creating something goes through a cycle, one that is seldom as easy or as immediately evident and as clear as I would like to imagine it is. … I still don’t know much intellectually about the nature of that creative process. What is the underlying principle at work here? Why do we seem to have to work so hard to get the kernel? And my interest in productivity causes me to ask how I can get to it faster, easier, more effectively, with less mess and the frustrations that often accompany it.”

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While reading David Allen’s post, I was reminded of an article from David Perell.  He explored the topic in a post called, The Magic Moment.  In the article he brought up the idea of inspiration.

“The Magic Moment is a moment where you have the freedom to create without the demands of publishing. You can’t predict a Magic Moment. They’re spawned by long periods of incubation, but they strike when the mind is at rest. They’re likely to come when you’re showering, driving, or exercising because that’s when the mind is at rest and you can finally hear yourself think. Like a surfer in the ocean, when a special wave swells up, you have to catch it and ride it to shore.”

Creativity is a large and fascinating topic.   I challenge you to think about your relationship with creativity?  When is it easiest for you to be creative?  When it is hardest?  Finally, what do you do when the moment of inspiration strikes?

 

The Efficient Librarian on the Library Leadership Podcast

I am pleased to share that my interview about Efficient Librarianship is now available on the Library Leadership Podcast.

Hosted by Adriane Herrick Juarez, the Executive Director of the Park City Library in Utah, she invites notable library leaders on to her show to discuss a wide range of topics.  Some of her prior guests, Lance Warner, Felton Thomas, and Peter Bromberg,  are library leaders who participated in my recent article Go For It! Advice From Library Directors.  Adriane has also interviewed two ALA Presidents, Jim Neal and Loida Garcia-Febo.  Here is the teaser to the interview:

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“As information professionals, we have a lot coming at us. Is it possible to keep up with the rapid-fire pace and stay stress free? According to today’s guest, it is. Doug Crane is the Director of the Palm Beach County Library System. He has a blog called the Efficient Librarian and teaches workshops and webinars on this topic.

“He explains how to organize our workflow systems, develop our personal knowledge management structures, take effective action-steps for success, and even have an email inbox that is empty at the end of each day. By tuning in, you will get simple steps to make all of this efficiency a reality.”

List to the whole interview at Library Leadership Podcast or download it to your favorite podcast app.  Please provide comment and feedback.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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?

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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!

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.

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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.

Forte Labs & Public Libraries

This year, ForteLabs stars Tiago and Lauren came to Florida to work directly with Palm Beach County Library staff to help them build their own second brains.  Working in person and remotely, library staff got to explore the latest techniques in the science and art of digital note taking.

Tiago Forte just released an insightful summary of the experience working with us on his Praxis blog.  His post neatly captured the character of modern day librarianship and the opportunities the profession has to be a leader in spreading productivity practices.  He also gained a deeper appreciation of the mission of public libraries.

“Far from being a dusty, stale institution stuck in the past, what we saw on our tour was a vibrant, dynamic, quickly evolving organization full of people who care deeply about accessibility for everyone. Lauren and I were blown away by the breadth of the library system’s programs and services, and all of them offered for free to anyone. We came away with the sense that the library was an absolutely vital part of the community, especially for those with the fewest resources.”

Read the blog post on the Palm Beach County Building a Second Brain project here.  As an added bonus, you can read Tiago’s second posting on the role of public libraries as social infrastructure here.  Thank you Tiago and Lauren!

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