Not What, but Where to Discard?

mariekondoDo you have something you want to throw away, but don’t want to simply put it in the trash? Our belongings are varied and the method of sending them along to a new destination can be as well.  Some things may be worthy of resale, others might be suitable to give away, or perhaps you are uncertain if it can be recycled?  A little block like this in the process of clearing a space can cause the discard project to stall.

Organizational expert Marie Kondo is well aware of this obstacle.  So, she recently placed a resource guide on her web site to help with the process of discarding.  For example, under clothing she identifies three different categories for discard: donate, resale, and recycle, along with actual organizations you can contact for each type.

One amazing fact shared in the guide is that the average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year for the entire country!

Check out the rest of the categories on her web site.

Can a Second Brain be Built in a Day?

basbWe all know that Rome was not built in a day, but can a second brain be built in a seven hour workshop?

On Tuesday May 21, Tiago and Lauren from Forte Labs came to the Palm Beach County Library System to lead their signature course Building a Second Brain (BASB) for thirty five library staff.  Participants were recruited from across the library system, with many members coming from the Productivity Committee and the User Experience (UX) Committee.  All of them were excited about the benefits an electronic second brain had to offer.  Prior to the workshop, participants had a homework assignment to identify their “12 Favorite Problems” and to start capturing electronic items, such as articles, photos, news clips, etc.,  in Microsoft OneNote.  They also had access to an online version of BASB specially designed for the library staff.

At the start, the BASB workshop laid out the core tenants of the second brain philosophy: Capture, Connect, Create.  The morning was spent with a review of capture and then moved on to PARA which clarified the difference between projects, areas, resources, and archives.  Following lunch, the seminar moved to the theory and practice of Progressive Summarization.  Students then explored the concept of project packets that lead to the “Just In Time” project delivery system.  Finally, Tiago shared his view of the future of knowledge work in relation to personal knowledge management.

Library staff left the workshop energized and excited about the possibilities from mastering personal knowledge management.  So in the end, we learned that building a second brain is not a one time exercise, but an ongoing approach to curate the streams of information that flow around us.

Thank you Tiago and Lauren from all of us at PBCLS!

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An Award and the PKM Experts

I am proud to share two news items.

First, this past week at the Florida Library Association conference, my article “Efficient Librarianship: A New Path for the Profession” received the award for Outstanding Scholarly Contribution.  I am humbled that the Association choose to recognize it with these words:flaaward

“Douglas Crane’s article, “Efficient Librarianship:  A New Path for the Profession” (Public Libraries Magazine, Nov/Dec 2017) explores the intersection between personal productivity and knowledge management practices within the field of librarianship.  The article examines how librarians are uniquely suited to be excellent knowledge workers through the combination of librarian skill sets with best productivity and efficiency practices.  It further argues that through these skills and practices, the “Efficient Librarian” becomes a powerful consultant and decision maker.  In addition to this article, Doug Crane blogs on his “Efficient Librarian” website and conducts related training.”

Second, this week the Palm Beach County Library System is proud to host Tiago and Lauren from Forte Labs who will be sharing their expertise on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM).  This is the first time that Forte Labs has presented their signature workshop on Building a Second Brain to a room full of library staff.  It should be awesome!

I’ll blog more on the training later this week.

Does Technology=Productivity?

DA-SmallWill a new iPhone make you more productive?  Perhaps the latest app can keep you on track to complete projects?  Is a digital calendar more effective than an old fashioned paper one?  With the constant cycle of technology there is always a new tool or software version coming out that promises to improve our efficiency and make life easier.  However, is this promise simply untenable?

In a recent blog post, David Allen addresses the intersection between technology and productivity.  He starts with a nuanced approach to the topic.

“Despite my thirty-five years of consulting, coaching, and training in hundreds of organizations, I don’t have an easy answer to that question. The digital tools we need and like require more intensive labor than they should. It would be great to have a digital dashboard that integrated all apps, allowed you to manipulate information in a single location, and then sent the revised data back to its original location. And all upgrades would happen automatically! Doubtful, in my lifetime.”

Despite this conflicted opening, David goes on to offer some straightforward advice on the topic.  Read the rest of the post on the Getting Things Done web site.

Failure is Thankfully Unavoidable

All knowledge workers will fail!  Guaranteed!

Nobody likes to fail.  In fact, a harsh stigma is often attached to failure.  Yet ironically failure is a natural part of life.  It is both unavoidable and necessary especially in the realm of knowledge work.

Remember that knowledge work is composed of tasks and goals that must be defined by the knowledge worker themselves.  Alas, even with their best judgement and experience, knowledge workers are often faced with a deficit of information.  Based on an incomplete picture, they are forced to make their best guess and then see how it plays out.  A knowledge worker living in fear of failure becomes paralyzed into inaction, perpetually avoiding a decision.

To counteract this problem, I agree with blogger Venkatesh Rao in that our approach to solving problems should be similar to that of software engineers.  Successful software engineers are constantly tinkering with code, testing it over and over again looking for bugs and creating situations where it will crash.  It is only after many different trails and iterations that they reach a pragmatic success.  This approach, known as “agile” has its own mantra, “Fail Early, Fail Often.”

Therefore, I believe that agility is a key factor for a successful knowledge worker.  They must be willing to learn from mistakes, course correct, and experiment constantly until they reach the desired goal.  When viewed this way failure is not a problem, but instead a necessary component of the path.  Once this is understood, failure loses it sting.  The knowledge worker can become fearless!

UC-TeddyDon’t worry about your failures, as each one is a stepping stone on the path to success.  As President Theodore Roosevelt said:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, then to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Leonardo DaVinci – Knowledge Worker

On a long ride across the state of Florida, I downloaded an audiobook from CloudLibrary to pass the time.  My selection was the biography of Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Issacson.  As I listened to the fascinating life story of the archetypal Renaissance Man, it struck me that Leonardo was in fact a knowledge worker well ahead of his time.  Knowledge work is characterized by the worker having to define their own goals and the steps needed to achieve success.  Back in the 1500’s, Leonardo DaVinci was doing many of the best practices of knowledge work naturally and to powerful affect.

leonardoFor example, not trusting his head to remember ideas, Leonardo was constantly taking notes.  It is estimated that he wrote 5000 pages in his lifetime.  These wide-ranging notebooks jump from scientific studies, to sketches of machines and animals, to subjects for artwork, to notes about his personal life.  Leonardo was constantly generating new ideas and the notebooks detail how he pieced different ideas together for larger impact.  This made him an early expert in the field of personal knowledge management.

Another advanced knowledge worker skill was his drive to ask challenging questions.  Leonardo was always seeking out experts in the courts of Florence and Milan to engage in deep discussions on a wide range of topics.  This incredible multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach was a secret to his success.  For example, his knowledge of anatomy allowed him to accurately draw the muscles of people in his paintings.  This small detail gave the images a sense of realistic movement that other paintings of the time lacked.

To read more about Da Vinci’s fascinating life, copies of the Issacson biography should be available at your local library.  You can also view pages from his notebooks at the website of the British Library.  Unfortunately, I don’t think you will find a secret DaVinci Code in any of his notebooks!

How Software is Eating the World

Look around your room.  How many devices do you see that run on software?  Our computers obviously, but we often forget that software runs our televisions and cable boxes.  Many people now own smart appliances or have Ring doorbells.  All recent cars have a software package that controls vital aspects of the car.  With the spread of software, we are more and more reliant on an invisible profession to manage our days: software engineers.  As Marc Andreessen wrote in his 2011 Wall Street Journal article, software is eating the world.

raoVenkatesh Rao has deeply explored how software design process altered our way of living.  In fact, he champions that idea that we need to think more like software engineers who embrace failure and use it to constantly improve their work.  In his online series, Breaking Smart, he argues that software has become a transformational technology on par with the development of language and money.  Yet being in the middle of this transformation, we still struggle to understand its full effects. Venkatesh writes:

“As a simple example, a 14-year-old teenager today (too young to show up in labor statistics) can learn programming, contribute significantly to open-source projects, and become a talented professional-grade programmer before age 18. This is breaking smart: an economic actor using early mastery of emerging technological leverage — in this case a young individual using software leverage — to wield disproportionate influence on the emerging future.”

This is clearly demonstrated in the impact of people like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google.  Venkatesh’s ideas are complex, but the Breaking Smart blog is worth tackling if you want to get a better sense of the often-unseen impact that software has on the world.