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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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New Article In C&RL News!

Catherine Johnson, Carissa Tomlinson and I just got published in the most recent issue of C&RL News. Our article is called In the spirit of Benjamin Franklin: 13 virtues of the next-gen librarian. It is an adaptation from the presentation that we did at ACRL last spring. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“In terms of librarianship then, what are the qualities that academic librarians today should possess to be successful in their careers and in serving their users? In the spirit of Franklin, these are a proposed list of virtues of next-gen librarians. Franklin used his virtues to grow as an individual. These virtues can be used as a tool to guide our self improvement as librarians in the 21st century, though they aren’t limited to that purpose. They can also be used by administrators to determine the qualities that they want in new hires, or by job seekers determining the culture of an institution. They can be used in evaluating managers or directors. The uses are myriad, but ultimately they are qualities that we should all strive for as next-gen librarians.”

If you have thoughts about any of the virtues or ones that should be added or removed, I’d love to hear them.

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On Leadership in Libraries

NELLS participants

photo by NELLS participant Kathleen Spahn

This past week I attended the New England Library Leadership Symposium facilitated by Maureen Sullivan in North Andover, MA. She lead a challenging and rewarding program over the course of a week, and as a group we did a lot of sharing and learning.  I wanted to distill down a few lessons that stuck out for me after reflecting on the symposium:

Authenticity is key to leadership and a positive work environment

In order to be successful as a leader you need to be authentic and an open, honest communicator. You need to have a good understanding of yourself. You should not avoid problems or just let them solve themselves. One of the keys to leadership is to foster an environment where you and the whole staff can be their authentic selves and not worry about speaking up or challenging assumptions. If people are constantly walking on eggshells, few new ideas will be presented. One way to do this is by treating people like whole adult human beings as opposed to resources to be managed. You should do things like say thank you or admit mistakes, not because that is what you are “supposed” to do, but because you genuinely respect the other humans that you work with. This will foster trust and allow others to be open, honest, and authentic with you and each other.

You have to manage your own career and happiness

If you are not happy somewhere or are no longer being fulfilled or challenged, you should try to find a way out. In this economy that is not always possible, but if that’s the case you should be looking for other opportunities, even ones that might not be in libraries. Maureen talked about how it would be great if more folks would find work outside of libraries and effect change with libraries in mind. But while you are looking for opportunities, you also need to make sure that you are currently doing work that is fulfilling. This could be serving a state organization, organizing a conference or volunteering in your community. Everyone deserves to be happy and fulfilled in their work. This means you have to take control of your own happiness instead of having it dictated to you.

Leadership exists on a continuum

Leadership is not an either/or position. Everyone has opportunities and the capacity for leadership no matter what they do. One concept Maureen discussed was emergent leadership. This is the idea that leaders can arise out of groups not based on their status but on their abilities. She also called it leading from the middle. Even if you are not in a position of formalized leadership that does not mean you cannot still gain leadership experience. There are a number of programs (ALA’s Emerging Leaders program comes to mind) that offer opportunities to practice leadership skills. There is also no shortage of work to be done in state, regional or national associations. You can take on projects that require project management skills. If you want to learn to lead, the opportunities abound.

The symposium was awesome and I’m likely going to write a few more posts that were inspired by it. I would recommend NELLS or something like it (Tall Texans, Harvard Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians) to anyone, no matter what your current position is. There are a lot of changes that need to be made in libraries starting now. We can all effect this change, it just takes some practice.