The Positive Effects of Growing Up with Books

As a librarian I naturally appreciate the value of a personal library of books at home. While my daughter was growing up we bought many classic and favorite books to supplement the ones I borrowed from the library. This lead her to become a proficient read and excellent student. While my daughter clearly benefited from a robust home library, it raises the question about the impact that access to books at home has on children across the population.

In a Smithsonian Magazine article, reporter Brigit Katz points to a study that “suggests that exposure to large home libraries may have a long-term impact on proficiency in three key areas.”

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The study, published recently in Social Science Research, assessed data from 160,000 adults from 31 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey, Japan and Chile. Participants filled out surveys with the Programme for the International Assessment of Competencies, which measures proficiency in three categories: literacy, numeracy (using mathematical concepts in everyday life) and information communication technology, (using digital technology to communicate with other people, and to gather and analyze information).

Learn more about the results of the study on the impact of home libraries on children’s development by reading the rest of the article.

Why Did I Make that Dumb Decision?

Have you ever made a decision you quickly regretted? We have all made choices in our life that seemed well thought out at first, only to have the results turn out sour. Decision making is something we do every day, but very few people take the time to examine their decision making process. Even fewer attempt to understand the hidden factors that effect our cognitive process and cloud our view of the world.

In a recent workshop for PCI Webinars I explored the role that fallacies and probability play in our decision making process. I started out the webinar with a quote from former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld that demonstrates the complexities of our ability to understand the world.

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.” – Donald Rumsfeld – US Secretary of Defense – 2001-2006

To learn more about six big fallacies the effect our decision making and to discover how our inability to understand probability leads to bad choices, read the text version of the workshop on the Efficient Librarian web site.

Leadership Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

This past year has been a trying time for everyone including those in leadership positions. Many leaders had to make health and safety decisions for the staff and the public they serve in the face of a threat that no one had any experience dealing with before now. For me this past year was a tremendous challenged but it provided many deep insights into how to guide an organization through a crisis.

My thoughts on leading through a pandemic were summarized in an article published in the Learning Exchange newsletter this past quarter. One of my first observations was that to be successful in their job leaders would be wise to over-communicate.

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Over-Communicate – In times of crisis constant communication is vital.  However, it is easy for leaders to fall quiet in the face of uncertainty or be too limited in their sharing.  The stress of a crisis prompts fear.  One underappreciated fact about fear is the creativity it spawns.  This creativity can be directed towards solving problems or it can be used to fuel angst and discord.  I have found that in the absence of effective communication, people fill the space with negativity and worse case scenarios.  To avoid this trap, leaders must over communicate.

The rest of the article is available to view right here on the Efficient Librarian.

The Ripple Effect

How do we make Work work for everyone?

By that I mean how can we create physical or virtual workplaces where teams come together in the spirit of friendship, respect, and trust? One person who has thought deeply about this is Shola Richards. I would like to share a portion of one of his teachings about kindness from a post on his web site titled: Make Someone’s Day, Every Day:

The Ripple Effect

You likely know how deeply I believe in the power of kindness, so I won’t rehash that here. Here’s what I will say, though:

Kindness is the fastest, most effective, and easiest way to positively change the world. Just the simple act of making someone’s day can positively affect three (or more) people:

  • The person delivering the act of kindness
  • The person receiving the act of kindness
  • The person (or people) witnessing the act of kindness

Can you imagine if everyone reading this blog post committed to making someone’s day, every day? Can you imagine the positive impact that could have on literally millions of people? You (yes, you!) could literally be the person who restores someone’s faith in the goodness of humanity.

I believe that this “ripple effect” (one that we are responsible for starting, by the way) could be the key to healing the world.

And yes, the world needs healing.

Read the rest of his blog post at his web site.

The Power of Appreciation

“Why should I thank them?  It’s their job.”

Many years ago I heard a supervisor say those words about her staff and to this day it still makes me cringe.  This person assumed that merely paying people for their work was thanks enough.  After all, to her mind it was not as if they rescued someone from a burning building or something else extraordinary!

I hope that you agree with me that people deserve to be appreciated beyond financial compensation.  Gratitude is not only reserved for big things that happen, but the little daily actions that contribute to workplace success.  In fact, this is an argument that appreciation for small actions has an out-sized effect.  According to the O.C. Tanner Global Culture Report, an employee’s satisfaction with their job is directly related to the amount of positive micro-experiences they have.

What are micro-experiences?  They are the tiny things that happen every day that together shape our overall impression of a workplace.  For example, do your colleagues say good morning every day; is the work evenly shared; is there laughter and fun in the workplace;  and does the team stick up for its members in a crisis.  Positive micro-experiences connect to a sense of purpose, success, and well-being, while negative ones do the opposite.

To my mind the most powerful micro-experiences come from genuine appreciation.  The most basic form of which is the simple, “thank you.”  Those two words have done more to improve employee morale and team connection than any other reward system or program.  I’ll ask you this question: How often do you thank your colleagues for helping out, completing tasks, or simply listening to your concerns? 

On my Library Management Team we started a practice to open every meeting with a round of appreciation.  Each team member offers gratitude to another team member for something specific they have done.  They can even offer appreciation to staff from that person’s division.  Opening the meeting this way creates a subtle but significant impact on the quality of the meeting.  It gets everyone into a team mode and demonstrates how simple appreciation quickly lifts the mood.

To that end, I challenge you all to make appreciation for your colleagues a more deliberate part of your day.  One habit is to thank at least five people every day for something specific they did at work.  Write kudos to them for an extra surprise.  Then watch how the power of appreciation creates an amazing work experience.  Thank you all for reading these thoughts!  It is appreciated.

Brutal Truths About Productivity

The feeling of being productive is awesome. There is a deep satisfaction in checking stuff off our to-do lists. However, there is a difference between being productive with simple tasks versus complicated projects. In the book Joy at Work, which I summarized last week, Marie Kondo makes a distinction between the urgent and the important. Urgent things are usually the small tasks that are easy to do but ultimately make little difference to our lives. The important tasks are hard to do, but make the most impact towards our larger goals and objectives. True productivity comes down to focusing on the latter and not the former. But how do we do this?

In an article in the Pocket web site, Thomas Oppong share 6 Brutal Truths about Productivity that can help people focus on what is truly important. For example, one of the six truths has to do with power of getting started.

The biggest hurdle for many of us is simply getting started. Making that important decision to take a step. You can be as big and successful as you can possibly imagine if you build that mindset you need to push yourself to make that all important decision to just start.

You have everything you need to make an impact in the world if you can get past the many reasons why should postpone that task. Don’t think too far into the future.

Use what you have right now at where you are and witness the magic of getting things done.

Read the other five truths on the Pocket web site.

The Ninety Minute Self Help Book Challenge

Below is the opening of a new article that can be found on the Efficient Librarian web site.

Last month I highlighted a strategy by Darius Foroux. He claimed a reader could get just about everything useful out of a self help book in only ninety minutes.  To explore his technique I tested it out on Joy at Work by Marie Kondo & Scott Sonenshein.  Here’s what I found.

Step One in Foroux’s method was to pick the book wisely.  I choose Joy at Work. It is a follow-up to Marie Kondo’s best selling The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up which focused on the home. My family had fun applying the Konmari principles to our house last summer, so I was curious to see how the philosophy could be transferred to the workplace. Given that I am a firm believer in GTD, I was also interested in learning how her techniques complimented and contrasted David Allen’s classic approach to getting things done. 

Learn what happened in Steps Two, Three and Four by reading the rest of the article at the Efficient Librarian web site.

What is Killing Your Focus?

Have you ever been distracted?

We are often our own worst enemy, as it is very easy to be enthralled by the next shiny bauble. However, sometimes it is other who distract us. The ability to focus is key to getting anything done well. There are many possible reasons for our inability to focus. In his recent article The Two Things Killing Your Ability to Focus published in the Harvard Business Review, writer William Treseder narrows down the culprits to two specific causes, our electronic devices and meetings.

First, we increasingly are overwhelmed with distractions flying at us from various connected devices. Smartphone and tablet use is spiking, and we now use digital media for an average of over 12 hours per day. This hyper-connected state does not allow us to process, recharge, and refocus.

Second, we rely excessively on meetings as the default form of interaction with other people at work. Studies indicate that we spend anywhere from 35–55 percent of our time, and sometimes much more, in meetings. If we want to stay focused on truly meaningful activity, something has to change.

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How do we get around these obstacles in order to better focus? Treseder suggests several approaches. For example, to make meetings more useful he suggests we shrink the number of people in attendance.

Countless studies, starting with this 2015 HBR research, have shown the benefits of smaller teams. Focus and responsibility are more challenging with too many people — which is how you end up with folks staring down silently at their laptops for an entire meeting. To stay focused, keep your team focused. Limit the number of people in any meeting to eight or fewer unless it is a meeting that is purely informational.

Read the full article to learn the other suggestions that will

Speed Reading Self Help Books

Even though I am a librarian, it has been a struggle lately to read books cover to cover. Perhaps it is due to age, or the pandemic stress, or simply competing demands on my time, but sitting down with a book is not simple anymore. Yet there are still many titles I want to read for self development. What can I do?

The answer might be to follow the advice in the article How To Read A Self-Help Book In 90 Minutes by Darius Foroux. He outlines a simple four step plan to quickly identify and deploy the most useful pieces of advice from any book. For example the first step is to choose wisely:

Why do you read a book? Is it because someone recommends it? Or because it’s an NYT bestseller? Those are lousy reasons to pick up a book and invest your time in reading it.I have only 1 question that helps me to decide reading a book: Is this book currently relevant to me? In other words: Will this book help me now? If the answer is no, I don’t read it. … You can’t expect to retain the information you read forever. That’s why you want to read books that are relevant to you.

Darius Foroux

I am going to use his approach to tackle Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein. In a future article I’ll share my summary of the key points and my experience using Foroux’s system.