Links Roundup #45: Deep Concentration, Fixed Schedule Productivity and Home Book Cataloging

saddle and ropeDr. Robert Talbert of Grand Valley State University shares this post about Fixed schedule productivity in his blog.  The idea of “laser-like focus” for one’s working hours and compartmentalizing work from private life is not new, but the practical example of establishing boundaries so that we aren’t working 24-7 is a good reminder for us all.

I’m late to this party, but have you seen the great list of 2018 Best Apps for Teaching & Learning compiled by AASL (American Assoication of School Librarians)?  While focused for K-12 librarians, I thought there were some useful ideas for easy to make games that might work for icebreakers or interactive moments in library instruction.  Kudos to AASL!

Book Riot recently published a list 8 Home Library Apps to Keep Your Book Collection Organized.  While long time favorites Book Reads and Library Thing are represented, there were a few new to me options here as well. And who among us doesn’t long to catalog our home book collections, lol.

The Beyond the To-Do List podcast recently interviewed Mike Strum, the author of the new book Be Think Do.  Mike is also the author of the newsletter Woolgathering.  It is a great conversation on these basic elements of any productivity philosophy.

If you enjoyed the above podcast, you might also enjoy Mike Strum’s article “Harnessing the Power of Deep Concentration“.  Some helpful discussion here about the value of single tracking instead of trying to multitask.

Are you married to your moleskin notebook?  If so, you might be excited to hear about their latest enhancement / collaboration with Dropbox.  Just as you can interact with Evernote and their Page Camera and Moleskin, now you can utilize Dropbox to enhance your group projects.  Check out the details here.

New Player in the Notetaking Game:  Have you heard of Notion?  I haven’t tried it yet, but the gurus over at Guiding Tech have done in depth comparisons between Notion and OneNote and Notion and Evernote worth taking a look at if you are shopping for a notetaking software. Tip:  Notion has created a convenient “import from evernote” tool. But even sight unseen, I suggest anyone considering switching from their current notetaking tool take some time to try out the alternative tools and get use to their strengths and weaknesses before committing.

Getting Things Done Redux

Getting Things Done (GTD) by David Allen is a classic book in the productivity world.  We’ve talked about the concepts of this method several times on this blog, and focused one of our Productivity Year sessions (session 4 to be exact) exclusively on it. So I was under the false impression that GTD was old news and that everyone was familiar with its concepts.

Just how misinformed I was became very clear when I attended a webinar on productivity recently with a number of the newer librarians on staff.  The webinar was focused on David Allen’s method and 3/4 of the room admitted that they had never heard of his book. This made it clear to me that this blog was long overdue for a refresher post on the Getting Things Done concept.

In a nutshell, GTD is a productivity method that allows the individual who religiously follows its precepts to gain control of one’s life and one’s to-do list and inbox.  Rather than rehash his whole schema here, I’d like to give you an updated list of places on the web where you can dive into the GTD world on your own.

  1. After reading our blog entry linked above, I would like to selfishly point you to the GTD page from my LibGuide on Productivity Tools for Graduate Students. It includes a 45 minute presentation by David Allen himself on the GTD process, as well as links to several other sources.
  2. Robert Talbert has a 26 post collection on his use of GTD.  Robert is a Mathematics professor and use to have a column (Casting Out Nines) on the Chronicle of Higher Learning.
  3. Getting Things Done Website:  Free Resources from David Allen

4. Nine Best GTD Apps:  Software for Getting Things Done.  Most options have limited free and Pro plans.

5. Mark Zobel (PhD who focuses on Alumni/Development work) has a series of blog posts on how he implements GTD.

6. For you Trello users out there, Jill Duffy posted on how to use Trello to GTD.

7. And I can’t forget our Evernote Users:  Getting Started with GTD Templates in Evernote

8. Todd Vasquez’s Ready Set Do blog is particularly interesting to me.  He doesn’t pull any punches on how Academic work does not completely lend itself to David Allen’s method.  However he does explore a lot of great ideas on Workflows on a MAC.

9. Love your Bullet Journal?  Tim Maurer has you covered with his GTD method post “My Complete 10-step Bullet Journal Productivity System“.

10.  And Finally, if I haven’t given you enough to read on GTD, zenhabits.net has compiled a Massive GTD Resource List for your browsing pleasure.  Enjoy!

Book Review: The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives that Make You Feel Alive

Picture of Lightning Striking Atlanta

Over the past week I have re-listened to a motivational audiobook as I have been out and about in my car.  I particularly love audiobooks that are read by the authors who wrote them, and this was just such a book.  Brendon Burchard is a motivational speaker and NY Times best-selling author. In his newest book, The Charge: Activtating the 10 Human Drives that Make You Feel Alive, Burchard outlines what he believes to be the ten basic human drives that inspires and gives individuals the charge to illuminate their lives. The five basic drives are Control, Competence, Congruence, Caring and Connection.  His five Forward Human Drives are Change, Challenge, Creativity, Contribution and Consciousness. The term ‘Personal Knowledge Management’ is nowhere in sight, and the topics tended to relate more to business people than academics. So why am I writing about the book here?

For me, PKM encompasses much more than tools and plans and changes to our lives that let us manage our working lives more efficiently.  For me, an important aspect of the PKM lifestyle is focusing on the way we think and feel about ourselves, those around us and life in general.  All the productivity tricks in the world will be useless if we don’t have the mindset and focus to apply them.

The author is so energetic and enthusiastic that it felt like he was right there in the passenger seat of the car prodding me to pay attention and stay engaged.  I found, that even when I was mentally saying “yeah, I know that”, hearing a message or concept repeated in such a motivational way was actually starting a spark in me, and I found myself musing over several ideas that he put in my head during his “exercises”.

One such idea was to plan out a year’s worth of goals, assigning one to each month.  While the idea of coming up with 12 challenging goals to add to my already overextended life made my mind go tilt, the idea of a monthly focus had appeal.   “What if,” I mused, “I assigned myself very small changes to incorporate in my life and tackle one more each month?”  What if all I had to do was remember to read a daily devotional thought each morning, for example. The one month deadline makes the change more doable and somehow easier to start, simply because of the time constraints involved (afterall, I can do ANYthing for just one month, right?).  Then next month, I would very likely find myself better capable of keeping up the new habit of reading daily devotions and can continue that while focusing on another small change for the new month ahead.

Was this brain science? No.  Had I never heard of chunking deliverables (or changes) into smaller, more achievable chunks?  Of course I had heard of the concept.  That is one of the most basic project management rules out there.  What I did discover anew, however, was the benefit to listening to (or reading) motivational books and speakers even when I felt like I already knew about the topic they were addressing.  It made me think of all the great books I had in my bookshelves… positive thinking books that were full of highlighted passages marked by ME.   I marked those passages because they made an impact on me when I read them.  I bet they would make an impact again today if I read them again.  And they might just make me think about a problem or challenge I am facing today a little differently.  Sometimes, seeing things from a different perspective can make all the difference in getting a “stuck” project going again. And Hey!  There’s a great idea for another monthly focus for me to make… dusting off some of those old favorite books and getting inspired anew!

What’s in your bookshelves that motivated or made a difference in your life?  Maybe it would be worth taking a second look too.

Links Roundup #44: Background Music, Mindfulness books, Timelines, Choose Your Own Adventures

saddle and rope
  • Options for Centering Background Music:

The How to Geek folks recently published a nice grouping of The Best Sites for Background or Ambient Noise. If you want to create your own combination of background noices, you might find it fun to try out Noisli… (tip – The picture of the trees gives you birdsong. 🙂 I personally love birdsong) I would like to add to this list, that many of the Dan Gibson’s Solitudes albums are now on YouTube in their complete form – for example Pachelbel in the Garden or if you like Indian flute music (without chanting), try pieces by Paul Horn from his Inside Canyon De Chelly album which is also on YouTube. There are certain tasks I perform where this kind of background music is very helpful in relaxing my mind enough to focus productively on the task at hand.

  • Best Mindfulness Books for 2018

Those of you who had your interest whetted by last month’s book review post on The Mindful Librarian might be looking for other book recommendations on the topic of mindfulness. Editor-in-chief of Mindful magazine, Barry Boyce, recently named his Best Mindfulness Books This Year.

  • Tools for Creating Timelines

Here’s a nice little collection of tools to help you create jazzier graphics for your presentations if you have data that you would like to represent in the form of a time line. Richard Byrne of the website Free Technology for Teachers posted recently Five Good Tools for Creating Timelines. He even discusses a tool for multimedia timelines!

  • Choose Your Own Adventure

Have you ever wished you could jazz up your instruction sections with one of those “choose your own adventure” books that many of us so enjoyed growing up? Well Richard Byrne also recently posted several videos on How to Use Keynote (or PowerPoint) To Create Your Own Adventure Stories. Fun technique.

Book Review: The Mindful Librarian

The new year is traditionally a time of reflection of the past, and a realignment of goals and attitudes to start the next year. One particularly reflective book that I have read recently is The Mindful Librarian (by authors: Richard Moniz, Joe Eshleman, Jo Henry, Howard Slutsky and Lisa Moniz. Published in 2016. ISBN: 9780081005552.}

 To quote from the back cover: ” In an academic environment of rapid change and doing more with less, librarians are increasingly challenged to manage stress, remain resilient, and take a proactive approach to complex issues that affect our profession.” 

The book is geared to academic librarians or the solo school librarian, and addresses the topic of mindfulness in education, with special emphasis on higher education.  They begin with a grounding chapter in the concepts of Mindfulness, how it began, the science of mindfulness and some resources for further exploration of the mindfulness concept. The authors then explore the use of mindfulness concepts specifically in the broader field of education, and then the specific field of the undergraduate research process. In particular, one of the authors discusses in some detail his program for “creating a more mindful research paper.”

The focused application of mindfulness techniques to the field of librarianship begins in earnest in the fourth chapter and continues through the remainder of the text.  We have chapters on mindfulness and the ACRL Framework for Instruction, mindfulness and reference services, mindfulness when building relationships with faculty and mindfulness in library leadership positions. The final chapter tackles how mindfulness can enhance the solo librarian’s experience.

The authors draw parallels throughout between mindfulness concepts of staying in the present moment and deep listening  to the core tenants of librarianship. The authors share that “Deep knowledge about yourself enable you to be consistent, to present yourself authentically, as you are.”  These are key attributes that help build rapport with others and increase our ability to be approachable to those we serve. 


I liked the wealth of recommended reading sections at the close of each chapter. I loved Tim Ryan’s quote (p 52): “The goal of mindfulness is to make you more focused and aware, so your mind and body can be in the same place at the same time.”


I also liked the author’s perspective of seeing the research paper as a journey with each stage important.. rather than a rush to the finished product. Lao Tzu (p 53) says “nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” The book is peppered throughout with many such insightful quotes that would take me far too long to share them all, and would rob you, the reader, from the joy of finding them yourselves when you read this worthwhile text. 


The chapter on reference services had a number of role-played examples of the mindful, and not-so-mindful librarian and his/her interactions with students that makes for entertaining reading. 

Don’t skip over the chapter on leadership, even if you have no intentions of ever being a member of your library leadership team.  There are a number of insights that apply to librarians at all levels of an organization specifically about mindful communication, and how you also practice leadership from the middle of the organization as well.

How is your burnout meter running right now?  While the final chapter of the book is focused for the solo librarian, a valuable discussion of librarian burnout, a hot topic these days, can be found in this chapter. All said, The Mindful Librarian is a lovely way to start the new year and new semester in a more thoughtful, connected frame of mind. Enjoy!