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How to Effectively Manage Your Time

I’ve been reading leadership/management/organizational literature more recently because of a leadership symposium I attended this summer and also in preparation for the Library Journal/Temple symposium coming up in a few weeks. Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I enjoy thinking about self-improvement and improving your character. The last article I co-wrote was about the 13 virtues of the Next-Gen librarian (modeled after the virtues in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography).

One book I’ve begun reading is Stephen Covey’s classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I originally picked it up because I remembered (and highly agree with) habit 5 “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” I think this one is key to getting along with colleagues, managers, doing reference, etc.

But now that I am actually reading the book, what I have been thinking a lot about is the third habit: “Put first things first.” Most librarians I talk to are generally very busy people. We have a lot of ideas, initiatives, and commitments. I know I wish that I had more time, and I really want to work on managing my time better. Covey puts forth a simple framework for thinking about time and projects that was really illuminating for me. He breaks activities down into a matrix of urgent/not urgent and important/not-important:

Covey says that the most impact comes when you focus on Quadrant II (important and not-urgent). These are things that you know are important and you know that they would make a big difference, but you “just don’t have the time.” In reality this is the work we should be focusing on and it would do the most to improve our work and our libraries. Clearly working on things like long-term planning, redesigning the website, or figuring out a coherent approach to ebooks, would be much more beneficial than, say cleaning up email or another meeting.

Of course meetings and email are necessary, but it’s easy to get caught up thinking that you have to go to every meeting or that all the emails in your inbox demand your attention. By carving out time specifically for Quadrant II tasks, those important things that keep getting kicked down the road actually start coming to fruition. This type of work is also much more fulfilling. It feels great to finish that article you keep putting off or finally get that annual report done.

Time management is something that I know I need work on and this framework is really helpful to me. Do other people find this helpful or have other useful ways of thinking about managing their time?

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Bridging the Gaps – Library Journal/Temple U. Symposium

covered bridge

Image CC on Flickr by Gregg Obst

Next month Library Journal and Temple University are going to be hosting an event called The Future of the Academic Library Symposium: Bridging the Gaps, and I am a panelist during one of the morning sessions. This is the second year that LJ has held this symposium and it seems like a great event. Not only are there a lot of great folks on the panels who I really respect and love hearing speak (like Erin DorneyAmanda Etches-JohnsonJenica RogersAaron Schmidt, and Courtney Young), but it’s also FREE. If you are in and around the Northeast area you should definitely try to make it. Did I mention it’s FREE?

As for the segment that I am in, it is focused on people and is about strengthening the culture in the library. Here’s the brief description:

“Why can’t my colleagues tolerate change?” Don’t these new librarians realize how we do things here?” “How come the deadwood always rejects my great ideas?” “Technology? That’s the new librarian’s job.” Our academic libraries can become fraught with misunderstanding and stereotypes about our colleagues, and when the gaps grow wide they lead to organizational dysfunction. To build better libraries we must confront these gaps. Doing so requires that we engage in authentic conversation focused on creating a better understanding of each other. Once we learn to appreciate our differences, and how our organizations thrive from the mix of skills we bring to it, we an begin to bridge the culture gap.

I am really excited about my co-panelists and the topic that we’re discussing. This summer I volunteered to participate in a 25 hour intensive program about intercultural understanding at Champlain College. We had amazing discussions, watched videos, read articles, debated one another, and gave presentations. Ultimately I think many of us came to a better understanding of our own lenses through which we see the world as well as the lenses of others. After the experience I feel a lot more empowered to have conversations about different cultures and how we can go about bridging the gaps.

I’m looking forward to 11/11/11 in Philadelphia. Hopefully I see you there!

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NELA Conference Presentation

Last week at the NELA conference I was part of a panel presentation at NELA with Heidi Steiner from Norwich University and Michelle McCaffery from St. Michael’s College. My section was the first one about using social media for outreach in reference. The panel was a lot of fun and Heidi stole the show at the end with her really fun and quirky presentation style. Overall, NELA was a great conference and I am looking forward to next year.