Meeting Overload?

Feeling Swallowed by Meetings?  You aren’t alone! Sometimes Academia seems particularly prone to this malady, so I shot down a rabbit hole on Google to see what insights I might be able to find for us all.

I found this helpful (and whimiscal) workflow for deciding on whether or not to schedule another meeting from Harold Jarche’s blog post in May:

The Atlassian article that he is quoting from (Running effective meetings) had several interesting points. They state:

An effective meeting brings a thoughtfully selected group of people together for a specific purpose, provides a forum for open discussion, and delivers a tangible result: a decision, a plan, a list of great ideas to pursue, a shared understanding of the work ahead. 

So meetings need the right people, an atmosphere of open discussion, and result in a tangible result. Consider whether you have diverse perspectives and individuals with complementary knowledge who can enrich the discussion and problem solving. Get buy-in from meeting members that they will be actively involved in the meeting. In our monthly team meetings, for example, all electronic devices (except for the secretary taking minutes) are banned.  And finally, end with an action plan, decision, or next steps, complete with dates and deliverables so everyone knows where things stand.

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Another resource you might want to peruse on the topic of effective meetings is a 2017 book by Dr. Rick Brinkman. Dealing with Meetings You Can’t Stand: Meet Less and Do More. It offers an empathetic and humorous view of this office-place time-stealer and provides a number of ideas and techniques to make meetings more effective and more tolerable. In addition to tips, real-life case studies are included to show how meetings can actually work successfully. The author also offers some extras on his website. He recorded a lengthy and quite informative interview with his publisher on YouTube:

I’d love to explore on this topic some more, but I have a meeting to attend. 😉

Book Review: The INFJ Writer by Lauren Sapala

Book Cover of INFJ Writer

Lauren Sapala is a writing coach who began to realize that a number of her clients, like herself, had Myers-Brigg Temperment Types of INFJ or INFP.  In this motivational book, she outlines what she discovered about the writing process that intuitive-feeling (NF) types frequently experience.

So what distinguishes (NF) types?  Authors Keirsey and Bates (Please Understand Me: Charater & Temperament Types, Prometheus Nemsis Books, 1984) says NF’s are only about 12% of the population, yet they make up the majority of writers of literature and journalists. This, in part, is due to their need to express and explore their sense of self. “Always becoming himself, the NF can never truly be himself, since the very act of reaching for the self immediately puts it out of reach.” (p 58-59, Keirsey and Bates)  Indeed, the NF’s battle cry seems to be: Be Real.  Be Authentic. Be Meaningful. (Ibid, 64)

I have to start with a disclaimer here.  This is not a book about how to write.  It doesn’t discuss techniques or writing styles.  This book addresses the internal blocks that NF types might be experiencing with their writing and how they might be able to move forward through and past said blocks. Sapala includes exercises to combat negative self-talk, gratitude exercises to help unblock creative energies, and visualization exercises to name only a few. She explores in depth the inner motivations and struggles of the NF writer  including perfectionism, toxic relationships to people or substances and the need for healthy boundaries, workaholic tendencies, and energy drains and energy motivators and from where healthy motivation springs.  While the book focuses on the INFJ writer, the author includes chapters at the end for other NF types as well.  If applying the Myers Briggs temperament types to other areas of interest in your life is intriguing to you and you enjoy exploring the “why you do what you do or think how you think”, you might enjoy Sapala’s exploration of the INFJ Writer.  Just don’t stop progressing on your writing projects in order to read it. 😉

More Resources for Librarian – Writers :

While not a new article, the folks at Academic Librarian has a nice summary of several articles focused on librarians as writers in their post: On Librarians Writing.

Wendy Laura Belcher has come out with a second edition of her excellent text, Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks.  We have used Belcher’s book as one of our base texts for our Library Faculty Writing Group for the past two iterations. The new edition has three new chapters. According to the author, “there is a new chapter on using the workbook to write an article from scratch as well as updated research on faculty productivity and scholarly writing, new timelines and more targeted exercises and checklists.”  She is planning to revive her micronewsletter focusing on overcoming writing obstacles, so check out her website for that.

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, 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

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  • 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.