Sabbaticals… Critical or Impossible?

As a new school year rushes toward us, I find myself thinking more and more wistfully about the sabbaticals that tenured professors around me are either leaving for or just returning from. The idea of a full semester (or year!) to focus only upon a desired area of research or study sounds immensely attractive as I work on Fall Kick-off projects and see my calendar filling up with all those oh-so-familiar beginning-of-the-school-year activities.

But, sabbaticals aren’t just for academics anymore… or at least so suggests the Forbes article How to Take a Sabbatical From Work.     Buddist monk meditating by a waterfall

I was surprised to discover that you don’t have to be a tenure track professional to take a sabbatical these days. Writers at Fast Company explain How Taking a Sabbatical Isn’t As Impossible As It Sounds. One of the keys to achieving a successful sabbatical is being very deliberate in developing a plan for what you want to do and how you might apply what you learn or experience on the job once you return.

One valuable resource for sabbatical planners to consider is Dan Clement‘s book Escape 101: Sabbaticals Made Simple.   His book and website will outline many of the considerations for planning and taking a sabbatical and is a wealth of information with links to many of the resources needed to make such an endeavor successful.

Brazeau & Van Tyle in their article ” Sabbaticals: The Key to Sharpening our Professional Skills as Educators, Scientists, and Clinicians” (Am J Pharm Educ. 2006 Oct 15; 70(5): 109), advocate for shorter (1 – 2 month) sabbaticals time for perhaps developing new skills at other clinics or  specialized study of topics that could bring back value to the organization.  While this idea in and of itself is appealing, Michael Hyatt discusses a more personal benefit from taking regular extended time away from your daily life (he suggests 1 month) in his post: 5 Things I learned When We Got Away From It All.   I particularly resonate with the idea of extended time to recenter/recharge and refocus my time and talents on what is most important to me.

While I admit that I am not seriously planning to pitch a request to my boss anytime soon for a  year-long sabbatical from my job, I do attempt to regularly schedule mini-retreats for myself several times a year. Recently I have wrapped several additional days around a holiday weekend.  I deliberately do not plan any vacation travel during these times. Last month I discussed how I sometimes use this time for special projects (the garage or the ALA Biblioquilt), but I also plan a significant chuck of my time as non-scheduled and unplugged.  Time just to think, to pray, to study a topic of personal interest and to recharge for the challenges ahead.   While always too short, I find it motivating to know that another mini-break is only a month or so away as I rejoin my normal hectic schedule.  My next break?  Labor Day weekend.  Just the thought of that extended break will make August fly.

How about you?  When is your next chance to get away and recharge?  Even if you just  came back from a break, glance through the next couple of months on the calendar and make some plans… just having something to look forward to can make the hectic start to the school year more palatable.




Lazy days of Summer.. or Hobbyist’s Mecca?

pictures of various hobbiesUntil a few years ago, I never thought about the number of different hobbies and interests that I had.  Then my sister retired, and I watched her struggle for several years to deal with the loss of her vocation, which had been her life.  She didn’t have hobbies –  she put everything into her job; then, when her job was no longer there, she didn’t know what to do.

Over time, she replaced her hours working with other pastimes, and now, almost 5 years after retirement, she recently told me that she was very happy being retired.  I on the other hand, find myself increasingly frustrated that my avocations far out-stretch my time and energy available.  How about you?  Which camp do you fall into?  Too many, or not enough interests and hobbies?

Business Insider, summarized The 20 most common hobbies of the richest people in the world last year.  If you guessed that number 1 was golf, you were way off!  In fact, the most common past-time for the world’s richest people is Philanthropy.  That’s a warm fuzzy for you!  (Golf was actually way down at number 14!)  Happily for us librarians, reading made the top 20, and was really the only one that I had in common with the world’s richest people.  Though I may desire to spend my days in philanthropic pursuits and worldwide travel my purse is a little too light for that to be a major past-time for me at this time.

If the Business Insider list was a little outside your comfort zone, you can also check out Lifehacks article: This List of 50 Low-cost Hobbies Will Excite You.  I am being very careful to not read this article very closely, because it seems I have the opposite problem… too many hobbies for the time and energy I have.  Hence the topic of hobbies on a productivity blog.  How do I balance my life so that the things that give me most joy don’t get stored on the back burner?

What if your work is fulfilling, but leaves little time for more creative pursuits?  The Muse discusses this at their blog: How to Find and Make Time for Your Passion Even When You’re Busy.  Lifehacker offers a Geek’s Guide to Budgeting Hobbies, because we all have experienced the financial hit as well as the time crunch when it comes to some of our favorite past-times.  I particularly liked their “mini-vacation” hobby holidays idea.  I have actually been able to somewhat successfully implement that in my own life by wrapping two vacation days around holiday long weekends, giving myself five days to focus on a certain cleaning project (Memorial Day was my Garage!), or hobby (I have 4th of July earmarked for putting together a quilt for ALABiblioquilters).

The Time Management Ninja reminds us Why You Need a Hobby to Be More Productive.  His advice is well taken.  It is hard to remember sometimes, when all our ToDo lists are screaming at us, but having experienced burnout more than once during my working years, I can fully endorse his advice.  In retrospect, I would much rather use the energy and time expended trying to recover from burnout on hobbies and creative outlets of my choice.  How about you?  Now, during the “only slightly” less crazed days of summer, join me in searching for precious pockets of time, energy and money to devote to rekindling our passions in our favorite (or new!) hobbies.




Links Roundup #35: Writing, Reading, Libraries and phone apps

saddle and ropeMore Writing Tips

Mendeley recently published a nice tips paper on scientific writing called Clarity and Impact: Key Tips for Writing a good Scientific Paper.  They also reference in the article, an infographic on the topic.  Unfortunately, the link in the Mendeley article isn’t working.  I did some digging and found the correct link:  Infographic: How to write better science papers.

Congratulations to Internet Archive!

On May 15th, Internet Archive received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the Webby Awards.  The Webby’s themselves explain it best: wins

“for its commitment to making the world’s knowledge available online and preserving the history of the Internet itself. With a vast collection of digitized materials and tools like the Wayback Machine, has become a vital resource not only to catalogue an ever-changing medium, but to safeguard a free and open Internet for everyone.”

I have always considered the Wayback Machine to be something of a miracle.  I am so happy that others have recognized the important contribution is making as well.

Thinking about Graduate School…

As many people are standing in lines at their college graduation ceremonies, some are no doubt considering continuing their academic studies at the graduate level.  I recently came across two nice articles on tips for success in STEM focused graduate school.  How to be a Successful Graduate Student in the Sciences  and  “So long, and thanks for the Ph.D.!” a.k.a.“Everything I wanted to know about C.S. graduate school at the beginning but didn’t learn until later.”

Chrome Library Extension

Have you tried the Chrome Library Extension for Amazon?  This is one extension that I think it totally cool!  You add the extension to your Chrome browser and identify your public library.  Everytime you search Amazon for a book, the extension will show up on the right side of your screen and notify you if your public library has the item.  There will be a direct link so you can log in and request the book right away.  Profhacker recently had a post on this feature, showing you how it works for Multiple (!)  libraries.

Online Reading Skills

Michael Larkin, Professor of Writing at Berkeley and author of the blog Culture Mulching, posted an excellent article entitled “To Read Well on Screens, Change Your Mindset.” Make sure you read all the way to the bottom of the article.  He and his Berkeley colleague have put together several helpful handouts for helping students get the most out of online reading.

Organizing your Phone

Mindful Magazine offers us this story on 5 Ways to Organize Your Phone to Unhijack Your Mind.  And from Updato, we have this article on How to Organize Your Phone and Turn it into a Distraction-free Productivity Tool.  And how about all those photos?  Gizmodo addresses that organization challenge in The 4 Best Apps  to Organize Your Phone’s Photos.  Frankly, I just connected my Dropbox to my phone photos.. .every photo immediately gets sent to Dropbox, so my phone organization of photos isn’t a problem, but I do have to organize and clean out my Dropbox, lol.


cover of May 2017 Computers in LibrariesProject Management with Trello

Kudos to two of my co-workers, Xueying Chen and Li Chen, for their publication of “How to Manage Library Projects with Trello” in the May issue of Computers in Libraries.    They demonstrate how they used Trello to manage a research project involving international student usage of library resources.  I love the colorful way that Infotoday presents their article with attention-grabbing illustrations.






Book Reviews: Search Inside Yourself and Joy on Demand

Search Inside Yourself Book CoverChade-Meng Tan, was originally an engineer at Google.  While working there, he was nicknamed by his co-workers as “Jolly Good Fellow”.  It is now part of his business card, and he is a NY Times Best Selling author of his mindfulness book Search Inside Yourself and his followup book Joy on Demand.

Search Inside Yourself was a mindfulness based training program that Tan developed while working at Google.  The success of his subsequent book and Ted talk led him to establish his Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute ( whose acronym is pronounced “silly”)  Tan’s dream and life’s work is to spread mindfulness compassion throughout corporate businesses by showing how compassion will be good for their bottom line.  Once accomplished, he believes this will spread compassion throughout the world and lead to his ultimate goal of world peace.

It all started for Tan during a walk on the Google grounds.  And a series of questions that he began posing to himself:

“What if people can use contemplative practices to help them succeed in life and at work? In other words, what if contemplative practices can be made beneficial both to people’s careers and to business bottom lines?”

The course that Tan created at Google in 2007 was called: Search Inside Yourself, so named as to be a humorous inside joke for the engineer who spent his life working on optimizing the Giant’s search engine. His program had three basic areas of focus:

  1. Attention Training
  2. Self knowledge…leading to self mastery
  3. Creating Useful Mental habits (for example:  What if your thought on meeting each person throughout your day was one of wishing happiness for that person?)

He explains his Search Inside Yourself theory in this talk which he delivered at Dreamforce.


In 2016, Tan returned with his sequel book, Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within.  Scientists have documented the positive neurological changes in a person’s brain after beginning a practice of mindfulness meditation. And Tan is likewise convinced of the power of mindful meditation in changing the set-point of a person’s response system from a negative state to a more positive, happier one. In his new book, he sets out to do that, providing us with the “skills to access joy”  He begins with exercises to help the reader cultivate inner peace.  He then gently and humorously turns our attention to the recognition of inner joy.  Inner joy leads naturally into a cycle of goodness that includes compassion and kindness. He also addresses the co-existence of inner joy and pain. Even if you only sample a few of the ideas offered in this engaging read, you will find yourself feeling lighter inside and perhaps even fighting a smile.

In closing, if you have never tried meditation before, here is a short 10 minute guided meditation about feeling present in this very moment for you to experience:




Links Roundup #34: Tidbits from around the web.

saddle and rope

Have the recent changes to Evernote’s pricing structure left you less than enamored with it as your go-to organization tool?  Michael Hyatt, who has written often on his use of Evernote, recently took a second look at several of Evernote’s top competitors and created a great comparison review in his article: Three Evernote Alternatives and How They Stack Up.

Also, our favorite folks at Evernote were busy taking notes for us at the 2017 SXSW Conference. Check their notebook here for highlights from the 30+ sessions in the Workplace Track discussing topics on workplace productivity and diversity.  My favorite note was from Carmen Medina’s talk, “Update Your Critical Thinking Skills”, where she says “Whatever information comes to us, we believe that it’s an accurate representation of reality when in fact it’s just the information we’ve received.”  Doesn’t that elegantly describe every Googling University Student you’ve ever met?

Next we turn to Podcasts.  For those of you who love to listen to podcasts while exercising or commuting, Bonnie Stachowiak offers her Podcast Greats for 2017.  While Bonnie’s list focuses on Teaching and Higher Ed, Kylie, a brand new librarian, listed her favorite librarian podcasts recently on her blog. If you are trying to find podcasts for your library users, Nicole Hennig has discusses ways to find Diverse and Accessible Podcasts in her recent Dispatches article in American Libraries.

The gurus at The Next Web reviewed the Best Chrome Extensions to Boost Your Productivity in 2017. And while LifeHacker and Tom’s Guide both reviewed the best Firefox add-ons last year, Mozilla is reminding us that they will be transferring from add-on features to WebExtensions by the end of this year.

Do you use the Public Folder option in your Dropbox in order to share files with others?  If so, this alert is for you!  Dropbox has announced that they will discontinuing their public folder options.  Individuals can share individual files by using a shared link. The public links were to quit working on March 15th.  See all the details here.

And finally, a shameless personal plug.  My article, “The Use of Visual Tools in the Academic Research Process: A Literature Review” was published this month in the Journal of Academic Librarianship (volume 43, Issue 2).  To quote from my own abstract,

“A number of visual tools including concept mappers and mind mappers are well suited to help advanced students, faculty, researchers and librarians to organize the ideas and knowledge throughout the various stages of complex research, from envisioning an idea to the early stages of actively researching and documenting research findings. This paper will discuss the potential uses of visual mapping tools and review the current state of academic literature surrounding the topics of mind mapping and concept mapping.”










Book Review: Finishing School: THe Happy Ending to that Ending to that Writing Project you can’t seem to get done

Book cover for Finishing SchoolProfessional librarians today are expected to be active in our organizations and in many cases, to be active writers, producing peer reviewed articles, book chapters and even books.  But writing does not come easily to many, and even the most prolific writers sometimes encounter the dreaded writer’s block.

Enter the subject of today’s book review, Finishing School.  The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can’t Seem to Get Done, by Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton.  Tennis, an advise columnist, created the Finishing School method to solve his own writer’s block in completing his first novel.  He collaborates here with Morton, a multi-book author and journalist, who, like Tennis, had hit a wall when trying to finish a project that was near and dear to her heart. By following the Finishing School method, they were each able to finish a stymied project after only three months. They credit their success to the systematic method they share in this book.  Because, as the authors’ remind us, “Not finishing a piece of writing can feel like the death of a dream.”

This past year I participated in a Professional Writing Group at my library. I found the camaraderie of meeting with other librarians who were also committed to producing several pieces of academic writing over the year-long program to be inspiring and motivational.  We were able to support one another as we each experienced snags in our projects, and projects that may have been abandoned, gained new life through the encouragement of fellow writers.  I found myself to be more prolific than ever, maintaining my monthly posts to this blog, completing several book reviews for Library Journal, and completing both a feature article due to appear in CR&L News in April, and a scholarly literature review which as been accepted for publication in the Journal of Academic Librarianship.

Throughout the process of completing the literature review, I hit several walls that were very difficult to break through.  I wish I had found Tennis’ and Morton’s book early on during those stressful times.  In their book, the authors describe the six emotional pitfalls that most writers may face during their writing projects, often in an escalating spiral: Doubt, Shame, Yearning, Fear, Judgement and Arrogance. After we understand the emotions behind our blocks, the authors then describe the Finishing School Method, with Morton sharing her experiences as a participant in Tennis’ school for the first time. The focus of the Finishing School is not on critique of the writing itself, but on the systematic production of product, good or bad. Accountability to a fellow school participant provides the incentive to continue to meet agreed upon goals, and setting consistent, achievable goals helps cement the writing process that will carry the writer to successful completion.  The book concludes with suggestions for developing your own Finishing School group in your area.

I enjoyed reading Finishing School. Alas, since both of my writing projects were completed prior to finding this book, I find myself currently struggling with a totally different writer’s dilemma: finding another interesting topic to write about.  Ah well.  I wonder if there is another book for that?

How about you? How is your professional writing going?  What do you find helpful when hitting a writer’s block?  How do you find new topics to write about?  Share with us so we can all learn together.