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?