The Strategic Value of Clear Space

DA-SmallAt the end of an Efficient Librarian training seminar or webinar, I like to close with a phrase from David Allen that has stuck with me for a long time.  To my mind this phrase encapsulates the power inherent in the GTD mindset.  The phrase is “The Strategic Value of Clear Space.”

In a recent blog post on the Getting Things Done web site, David Allen expands on “The Strategic Value of Clear Space” at length.  Here is a key takeaway:

“To tackle something most productively you must begin in clear space. Physically you need all your tools in order and an open space for spreading your raw elements and assembling structures. Psychically you need an empty head, clear of distractions and unfinished business holding your attention hostage. From this starting point you will have your best chances for creative thinking, optimal ability to deal with surprise, maximum flexibility to come up with workarounds and innovative solutions. You’ll be able to take advantage of serendipitous, potentially valuable ideas.”

Read the rest at the Getting Things Done web site.

Power of Gratitude

What are you thankful for?

affection appreciation decoration design

As we move into the American Thanksgiving holiday week, it is a natural time to reflect on life.  No matter what is happening to you right now, there is something to be thankful for.  In fact, scientific studies have shown that taking time to be grateful has a positive impact on your well being.  In a 2011 letter on the Harvard Medical School web site, the author shares that:

“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

The letter goes on to list some simple ways to bring gratitude into daily life, including:

  • Write a thank-you note
  • Thank someone mentally
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Count your blessings
  • Pray
  • Meditate

In keeping with the spirit, thank you all for reading this blog.  I hope these posts have made a positive impact in your life.  Have a wonderful holiday season!

Advice on Tidying a Workspace

mariekondoDo you inhabit a messy workplace?  While your desk contains clutter of your own making, most offices have communal spaces that can quickly get out of hand.  What is the best approach to keeping these common areas clean?

The Konmari Method, created by Marie Kondo, is mostly devoted to helping people organize their personal home space.  However, in an interview with the web site Quartz Marie Kondo shares insights into keeping office spaces clean.

“My suggestion would be for co-workers to tidy up their workplace together. There are many benefits to organizing your desk space, including increasing your efficiency by spending less time looking for the things that you need, being able to more quickly prioritize your workload, and even feeling better as a result of working in a clean environment.”

Read the other questions and answers for Marie in this short article on Quartz.

Email and Your Job

davidallenIt seems like every year the email beast gets larger and hungrier.   According to the the web site Templafy, the average person receives 121 emails a day.  This sheer volume of electronic correspondence lead to a fascinating question that was posted to the Getting Things Done web site:  At what point did answering e-mail become my job? 

The answer from David Allen is very insightful:

“Well, at what point did answering anything—your mail, having conversations in your hallway—become your job? It’s all your job. You just have to decide what your work is. As the late, great Peter Drucker said, that’s your biggest job, to define what your work is.”

Read the rest of his response on the Getting Things Done web site.

Social Infrastructure

You may be familiar with the term “social capital”— the concept commonly used to measure people’s relationships and networks.  It has been used for many years as a way to emphasize the importance of people in an organization or community.  While this concept is important, what has often been overlooked is the public space that people need for this interaction to take place, known as the Social Infrastructure.

Social Infrastructure is featured in a recent Atlantic article titled, Worry Less About Crumbling Roads, More About Crumbling LibrariesAs author Eliot Klinenberg writes:

palaces“Public institutions, such as libraries, schools, playgrounds, and athletic fields, are vital parts of the social infrastructure. So too are community gardens and other green spaces that invite people into the public realm. Nonprofit organizations, including churches and civic associations, act as social infrastructure when they have an established physical space where people can assemble, as do regularly scheduled markets for food, clothing, and other consumer goods.”

Read the rest of this fascinating article on the Atlantic’s website.  If you enjoy it, look for Klinenberg’s book, Palaces of the People: how social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life at your local library.

The Weekly Review

Quick question: According to David Allen, what is the “critical success factor” in making your GTD practice stick?

Answer: The Weekly Review

In our fast moving times, it is very important to step away from the daily grind to get perspective on your work, goals, and mission.  The Weekly Review is that opportunity. The Review is typically done on the last day of the gtd-logowork week in order to reflect on your calendar, tie up loose ends, and make sure the everything that has your attention is captured for processing.  I know from my own personal experience that whenever I miss a Weekly Review, there is a feeling of incompleteness.  The Weekly Review is an excellent way to move into a stress free weekend.

Check out this free podcast and guide available on the GTD web site.


Banishing The Ghost Of Melvil Dewey

The idea of a public library is a modern concept convinced in the mid-1800’s.  It took years before free libraries were established across the country.  One of the early proponents of public libraries in America was Melvil Dewey, who became the State Librarian of New York in 1888.

Today Dewey is best remembered as the originator of the book classification system that carries his name, as well as a founder of the American Library Association.  What is not well remembered is the social agenda that powered his belief in public libraries.  In a recent article on “The Establishment” web site called Banishing The Ghost Of Melvil Dewey: How Public Libraries Are Outgrowing Their Classist Roots, author Anna Gooding-Call shares this view of Dewey:

220px-Melvil_Dewey“He was a zealous librarian celebrity, famously arrogant, and completely committed to the idea that the public could only improve themselves if they understood and embodied Christian morality. Dewey could provide this education with books, which would “elevate” them through a system of ideologically coordinated public libraries. When shown the foundation of Western literature—ran the logic—readers would understand how society functioned as well as their place within it. The result would be literate but passive components of a capitalist machine. Public libraries would be its oil.”

Read the rest of this fascinating article that examines how libraries today are adjusting to a present much different from what Dewey ever imagined.