Tuesday Tool Tip: Bullet Journaling

Colleen Boff over at Library Worklife had a nice post this month on “Get Organized, Reflective, and Focused Through Bullet-Journaling.”  The YouTube link she includes in her article covers how to set up a Bullet-Journal and also includes a video showing how the Bullet-Journal got started via Kickstarter.

The Bullet Journal (BuJo for short) system was created by Ryder Carroll. He explained its evolution in his TedxYale Talk, “How to lead an intentional life.”  In 2014, his Kickstarter campaign raised close to $80,000, and the bulletjournal.com website was born.  And since then, the whole concept of bullet journaling has gone viral, with over one million Instagram posts with the #bulletjournal tag and I won’t even begin to count the Pinterest and Twitter posts.  Then there are the Facebook pages: Bullet Journal Beginners with over 19,600 members and Bullet Journal Junkies with over 126,200 members just to name a few.  And in case you wondered, yes, there is even a Librarians Who Bullet Journal Facebook group (only 22 members at last glance).

There is a significant offshoot of the original bullet journal where artistic individuals have taken the utilitarian pages of the bullet journal and have created works of art with their page layouts.  For example, Tsh, over at The Art of Simple, has a very nice post about bullet-journaling with some beautiful sample pages.  And if you like the artistic bent to your journal, Dawn Nichole Designs has a nice roundup of how-to bullet-journal tutorials that explore different templates and hand-lettering options.  Boho Berry has a multi-post guide to everything Bullet-journaling and a bonus post on using Bullet-journaling for her NaNoWriMo experience.

Want a digital version of the Bullet journal?  Watch this video by Michele Christensen: How to set up a Bullet Journal-style notebook in OneNote.

There are, as with any tool, pros and cons to this technique.  On the Pro side, your bullet-journal can be customized by you to contain all the important “stuff” that you need to have at your fingertips, and it will still be accessible if the power goes out and you are beyond a cell signal.  On the Con side, it may result in you repeating some calendaring and list maintenance if you currently use (and intend to continue to use) other tools.  Also on the Con side, I personally didn’t care for the idea that some used this tool to amass more permanent or ongoing lists, like wish lists, books-I’ve-read, long-term-goals, etc.  My reservation with this usage is that the bullet-journals are of static length and pages can’t be easily moved to your next bullet journal when the current one is full.  I don’t want to lose, or have to copy over such lists, but that is a minor point and such pages don’t have to be included in a bullet journal.

Is Bullet journaling the ANSWER to productivity and self-organization?  Every tool is only what you make of it.  Take a look at a bunch of bullet journals and decide how this might or might not fit into your life.  Does it take more time to keep up with the journal than what you were doing before?  Do you find yourself being more burdened by trying to keep up with the actual journaling than you were before?  Are you, instead, managing to keep up with things easier and accomplishing more than before?  If so, perhaps this is the method for you.

Links Roundup #36: Browsers, Email , Life’s Purpose, Mindmapping and a New Science Desktop Library

saddle and ropeIf you are like me, you sometimes wonder if the web browser of choice (especially when it is crashing on you!) is the still the best choice.  PC Magazine comes to the rescue with their latest article:  The Best Web Browsers of 2017.  I’ve heard of Microsoft’s new Edge, but how many of you have heard of Vivaldi, and Brave, and Neon?  They were all new to me!

Thinking about reevaluating my web browser had me asking the question, what about my web-based email service?  I have a suspicion that Yahoo may be responsible for my browser crashes lately, but my long-term history of saved message has made me less eager to change services.  The people at TechAdvisor offer us up-to-date insight with The Best Free Email Services for 2017.  The people at LIfeWire also chimed in with their 2017 Best Of post. New to me were Yandex and ProtonMail.

Steven Riccio, a professor of International Business & Management at Dickinson College recently posted Habits of Highly Effective Higher-Ed Professionals, Part 2: Finding Your Purpose. If you missed his Part 1 article back in June, it is also worth visiting.  In Part 2, Riccio thoughtfully extends the thesis of his previous article which focused on “sharpening our saws” for more effective work, and takes on the challenge of shifting our professional focus from “pursuing happiness to pursuing purpose.”  He looks at how many strive to reach happiness via the completion of goals and challenges, that we end up exhausted, and still missing the ultimate goal of happiness. Riccio challenges us to look inward and discover what our true purpose is for our lives.  Did you follow the directives he gave mid article and write down what you believed, at that moment that your purpose was?  Did it develop and change by the time you finished the article?

ScienceFair is a new open source desktop science library hosted on Github. It  “was developed by Code for Science and FathomLabs along with other contributors, with support from Mozilla Science LabeLife and the Dat project.” (per site).  You can read about all the details of the new launch at the eLife Labs blog.  While they are planning a reference manager feature for upcoming releases, ScienceFair is not another reference manager.  Instead the developers have focused their efforts on providing a better application for searching open access science literature and providing a quality reader for the articles.  They also have begun to offer some data and text mining features which they intend to be a focus for future enhancements.  While still in their very early days, ScienceFair is an application worth keeping our eyes on.

And Finally, from our friends at the mindmapping software blog, we have their newest mindmapping comparison for 2017.  More comprehensive than ever, this is a great resource for anyone interested in mindmapping software options.



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:  Archive.org 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, Archive.org 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 archive.org 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: